A game of states? Sport and international politics
Despite the self-professed neutrality of international sports organizations, the realms of international sport and international politics are deeply entangled, as the bans on Russian and Belarusian athletes introduced following the outbreak of the war against Kyiv have laid bare. Since their inception, international sports events have been an arena for interactions between states, offering opportunities for diplomacy and détente, as well as soft power projection and great power politics. During the Cold War, international sport provided a platform for symbolic confrontation between the US and the USSR and their respective blocs, but also an avenue for the reintegration of the countries defeated in World War II and the recognition at the international level of the ‘new’ postcolonial states in Africa and Asia. Individual athletes were also able to reclaim the sporting stage to deliver powerful messages, as embodied in John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s iconic gesture at the Mexico 1968 Olympics.