Sports and National Identity Politics


Sports are games played competitively that aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills. They can also provide entertainment for spectators.

They can be organised or casual and involve hundreds of people simultaneously.

They can be between single contestants or between two sides competing for a prize.

In modern societies, they are a key part of the social life of many people and are used to promote good health.

Their development has been influenced by global processes such as economic growth, technological change and the emergence of cosmopolitan cultures.

These processes have also impacted the way in which sports are viewed, and how they function within national identity politics.

Throughout the 19th century, sports served to reinforce and challenge national identities by creating symbols that reflected particular views of patriotism and nationalism. This role was reinforced during the Cold War, when Western nations invested significant resources in sports as a means of bolstering their hegemonic social relations.

While sports remain a powerful form of expression for hegemonic masculine identity, globalization is challenging the dominant European and North American values that underpin these activities. This reflects the increasing diversification of body cultures and cultural identities in various regions, including Asia and Africa.

The hegemonic values associated with modern sports can have a positive or negative effect on individuals, as research has shown. For example, sports can build a sense of self-confidence and strength in young men and boys, but they can also create characters that are tough and aggressive and can be harmful to other parts of society.