Report from the 15th ISHPES congress 2014 at Qatar University in Doha, Qatar

Natalia Camps Y Wilant
University of Muenster
Min Ge
University of Western Australia
Marit Nybelius
Malmö University

Doha skyline.
Doha skyline.

From September 22 to 25, 2014, Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum organized the ISHPES Congress 2014 at the Qatar University in Doha, Qatar. Not only was it the 25th anniversary of ISHPES, International Society for the History of Physical Education and Sport, but also the first time a congress was held in the Middle East.

In their opening speeches Sheikha Al-Misnad (President of Qatar University ) and Annette R. Hofmann (ISHPES President) welcomed the 320 participants from 47 countries representing different institutions, who attended the four day event. Fahad Juma (Director of Planning & Development of the Qatar Olympic Committee) explained the development and milestones of the growth in sport in Qatar.

Within the framework of the overall theme “Global Perspectives On Sport and Physical Culture: From Past to Present”, 71 engaging and informative lectures were given, which generated lively discussions throughout the congress. We can only refer to a few examples in the following.

The keynote speakers were Christian Wacker (director of the Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum) and Joachim Gierlichs (Qatar National Library), who compared the pilgrimages to Olympia and Mecca from an historical perspective, and Susanna Hedenborg (Malmö University), who investigated if equestrian sports can be seen as international sports. Patricia Vertinsky (University of British Columbia) traced the divisive role of movement education and modern dance in female physical education in England, and Thierry Terret (University of Lyon), explained how a system of industry–innovation–federation helped to create the French skiing elite.

Conference venue.
Conference venue.

The paper presentations were grouped around a variety of topics like Olympics, Physical Education, Gender, Modern Sports, Sport in Africa, Mountain Sports, Sport and Popular culture, Soccer, etc. The panels provided valuable insights into traditional games in the Gulf Region.

The workshop of the International Journal of the History of Sport was included in the conference, and in his presentation, Ian Henry (Loughborough University) considered how the hosting of major events helped the Gulf Cooperation Council States to draw on Olympic solidarity.

One of the highlights was the lecture related to the 25th anniversary of ISHPES. Roland Renson (Catholic University of Leuven) recounted how the rival fractions from the same discipline, ICOSH, International Committee for Sport History, and HISPA, International Association for the History of Physical Education and Sport, merged into ISHPES in 1989. This presentation was followed by a historic round table attended by all former ISHPES presidents and vice-presidents: Roland Renson (Catholic University of Leuven), Gertrud Pfister (University of Copenhagen), Thierry Terret (University of Lyon), Patricia Vertinsky (University of British Columbia) Gigliola Gori (University of Urbino) and Annette R. Hofmann (Ludwigsburg University of Education). They all gave their personal reflections around the past 25 years and the future of ISHPES.

Susanna Hedenborg, keynoter.
Susanna Hedenborg, keynoter.

Standing out in the Congress program were the presentations of the award winners. ISHPES award winner Michael Krüger (University of Muenster) explained the roles of nationalism, internationalism and cultural imperialism in the development of modern sports and the four major issues in this process. This year’s “Gigliola Gori Young Scholar Award” was divided between two winners for their exceptional works. The winners were Emanuel Hübner from the University of Muenster, Germany and Viktoria Felkar from the University of British Colombia, Canada. There was also the “Routledge Junior Scholar Award”, which is given to young scholars for the best presentation during the congress. The winners this year were Shunsuke Matsuo from the University of Tokyo, and Shahrzad Mohammadi, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg.

In a session for junior scholars, chaired by ISHPES President Annette R. Hofmann and Gertrud Pfister (University of Copenhagen), they received advice how to find the right path in the world of science, for instance in terms of writing and publishing. Some other professors visited the session and offered their advice as well.

To give junior scholars the possibility to meet and network in more informal surroundings one night of the social program were organized for them. The first social night was spent on “Dhows”, typical wooden boats lying in the bay. It was a magnificent evening with a clear, dark sky lit up by all the neon lights from the city. Dinner was served on the boat and it was a great atmosphere and a good chance to network. This year all participants were invited to join this event.

A night out on a Dhow.
A night out on a Dhow.

The next evening it was another social event for everyone. It was a visit to Souq Waqif, a traditional market dating back at least a hundred years. Recently it was torn down and rebuilt in traditional architectural styles, and it has become one of Doha’s top tourist sites. The delegates enjoyed the traditional garments, spices, handicraft and souvenirs. While walking through the market and dining in local restaurants, the participants, especially junior scholars, had an opportunity to get to know each other better, and to exchange ideas with senior scholars.

The closing social event was a reception in the central courtyard of the Museum of Islamic art. This impressive environment hosted the congress’ last highlights. All awards were given to the winners and Patricia Vertinsky and Thierry Terret were awarded Honorary Memberships for their loyalty towards ISHPES over the years.

The facilities of the Qatar University were fabulous. Luis Henrique Rolim Silva (President of the Organizing Committee and Head of Research of the Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum) and his group of volunteers did a wonderful and hospitable job and made the event an inspiring and unforgettable experience for the participants.

Copyright © Natalia Camps Y Wilant, Min Ge and Marit Nybelius 2014

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