Sport and Politics in the Twenty-First Century

Sandra Meeuwsen*, Lev Kreft

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this article, we address the aporia(s) of the Olympic discourse produced by the troubled split between sport and politics. To start our argument, we will show that sporting governing bodies continuously insist that they are still on the other side of any kind of politics. Guided by Aristotle, who presented the reciprocity of ethics and politics, we will unveil the fallacy of this discourse. In a short genealogy of the relationship between sport, ethics, and politics, we will highlight the Munich Olympics 1936 and Mexico Olympics 1968, where political engagement of sport was exposed clearly. At the same time, the supposed political neutrality of sport manifested an aristocratic preference for radical right regimes. After that, we will analyse the contemporary relation between sport, ethics, and politics in the light of recent developments, including sport’s ambiguous reaction on the Ukraine war. Further argument will be that sport’s in- and external politics, supported by sport ethics and the inherited mantra of the split between sport and politics, is more than just a hypocrisy. At the start, modern sport claims autonomy of governance to keep away from state domination, yet this very autonomy also freezes sport’s ethical core, forbidding athletes, coaches and others active in sport, to express any political engagement, other than passive acceptance of the regulation by governing sport bodies, as the only politics to be respected without deliberation. In the final part an alternative understanding of the dynamics between politics, the political and sport’s ethical core, will be presented to be included in the philosophy of sport and fully developed in following articles.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSport, Ethics and Philosophy
Early online date7 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2022

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© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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