July-August 2011: The View from CPD
Sports diplomacy is a political function that trades on non-political credibility. Someone who is skeptical of Barack Obama might welcome Michelle Kwan, and a person not ready to believe Hillary Clinton might embrace Cal Ripken. Trust is a rare enough commodity in diplomacy that policymakers seek out personalities or methods that enable their viewpoints to receive a hearing, and sports figures have proved to be useful in accomplishing this.
Sports fandom is virtually universal, and sports accomplishments can attract worldwide admiration. As a diplomatic tool, sports may open doors closed to more conventional approaches. Goodwill tours by baseball teams, the ping pong diplomacy of the 1970s, and continuing exchange visits by teams and individual athletes transcend many political barriers.
As this issue of PDiN Monitor illustrates, sports diplomacy does not supplant policy, but it can help illuminate a country’s values and the character of its citizens. This makes sports diplomacy an effective element of public diplomacy.