Making Sports Diplomacy Count

Sports diplomacy has been touted as a helpful public diplomacy tool in part because it removes the barriers created by international politics and focuses on a common love for the game. But like any sports game where a win is never guaranteed, sports diplomacy does not always lead to successful diplomatic outcomes. 

In a recent study, scholars representing the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad (FUM) in Iran and Oklahoma State University in the U.S. explore how to convert the soft power of sports into helpful public diplomacy results. 

The authors propose conversion strategies and construct a scientific model to leverage sports diplomacy. The model considers and evaluates several existing sports diplomacy strategies, including cohesiveness between a country's sports diplomacy and broader public diplomacy positions; utilization of fans, players and others as competent cultural ambassadors; high performance by teams and players; and global communication of successful results. 

"The pure optimism of mixing sports and diplomacy will not necessarily lead to desired results for a nation," write the authors. "Rather, it is important to instigate further discussion between theorists and practitioners—from both diplomacy and sport—to create a more sustainable and practical relationship between the two fields."

Read the full paper, "Converting sports diplomacy to diplomatic outcomes: Introducing a sports diplomacy model," in the International Area Studies Review here

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