Call for Papers | “A game of states? Sport and international politics”, special issue of Eracle. Journal of Sport and Social Sciences. Call ends November 30, 2022


Guest editors:  
    • Valentina Fedele (Università della Calabria)  
    • Leo Goretti (Istituto Affari Internazionali) 
    • Nicola Sbetti (Università di Bologna)

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.  

After 1989-91, mega-sports events were often seen as the incarnation of a globalized world – and  its many contradictions, as sheer commercialization, huge North-South inequalities and the  allocation of events to dubious regimes highlighted. In parallel, international sports organizations  had to increasingly engage with a variety of non-state actors – among them, non-governmental  organizations advocating for human rights and mega-corporations eager to reach out to billions  of sports enthusiasts – and new questions – ranging from increasing attention to the  environmental and social sustainability of mega-events to anti-discrimination demonstrations and  calls for recognition of non-binary gender identities.  

In recent years, the increasing fragmentation of the international system, linked to rising China US tensions, the emergence of populist movements, the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic  and the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, casts further complexity and uncertainty on international  sport, calling for renewed scholarly attention and inquiry. 

A postmark printed in Umm-al-Qiwain, commemorating the Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong meeting as a result of the ping-pong diplomacy between th US and the PRC in the early 70’s. (Shutterstock/Solodov Aleksei)

Against this backdrop, we invite scholars of sport as a social phenomenon and institution – historians, sociologists, political scientists, International Relations and Media and  Communications scholars – to submit proposals addressing the multifaceted nexus between  sport and international politics, including, but not limited to: 

      • Sport diplomacy as a tool to establish, improve, strengthen and reset relations between  states, and its history; 
      • International sports events as a platform for the projection of soft power as well as the  manifestation of great power politics;
      • The impact of past and present wars and armed conflicts on international sport, and the  reaction (or lack thereof) of national and international sports organizations and athletes;
      •  The use of international sport for nation-building at the domestic level and nation branding at the international level (including the quest for recognition of new and aspiring  states); 
      • The role and politics of international sports organizations such as the International  Olympic and Paralympic Committees and International Sports Federations as  international non-state actors; 
      • The (contested) political economy of mega-sports events and related infrastructure  projects, and their sustainability (or lack thereof) in environmental, social and financial  terms; 
      • The agency of athletes and supporters in the international sports arena; International sports events as a site for advancing socio-political and human rights causes,  including anti-racism, anti-discrimination, gender equality and the recognition of  LGBTQIA+ rights; 
      • The relation between sport and migration – both organized and spontaneous – as  encapsulated in the international trade in athletes as well as the political use of sporting  citizenship. 

Proposals can be written in English, Italian, Spanish or French and must be sent to the following  email addresses: valentina.fedele@unical.it; l.goretti@iai.it; n.sbetti@gmail.com. 

Closing date for abstracts submission: November 30, 2022 

Notification to the authors: December 12, 2022 

Articles submission deadline: February 15, 2023 

Articles assessment: March 30, 2023 

Final version submission: by May 31, 2023 

Publication: September, 2023, of Eracle. Journal of Sport and Social Sciences | Vol. 6, 2023 | ISSN 2611-6693


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