Sport and International Relations: An Emerging Relationship (Sport in the Global Society)
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We use it in our efforts to heal the emotional wounds of war among young people in refugee camps, and in countries recovering from armed conflict. We use it to try to bridge ethnic, social, cultural and religious divides. We use it to promote teamwork and fair play. We use it to empower girls. We use it in our work to reach the Millennium Development Goals—the set of powerful, people-centred objectives adopted by all countries as a blueprint for building a better world in the 21st century UNited nations, SecretarY-General, While the UN's member states had realised before WWII that the language of sport, and of football in particular, was part of everyday life the world over, the organisation itself needed the change of century to follow the trend.
The reasoning was that it would use the dynamic of sport as an effective tool for promoting peace and achieving the MDGs. When was proclaimed the 'International Year of Sport and Physical Education', member states were urged to incorporate "in their national legislation and policies the role of sport in dealing with numerous domestic foreign policy challenges" Beutler, , p , p. In football terms, the UN could be a normal player in international relations, since it is made up of regular national teams, which define the international system. The UN's officials thought that they could keep for themselves the key role of referees over the clashing national egotisms of its members, which is, after all, how the states had discovered it as the irreplaceable arbiter in their championship matches, and their peoples had accepted this fact.
More often than not, though, it proved equally unable to either win the approval of the crowds in the stands or to impose its authority on the field. The combination of its aristocratic structure and geopolitical conjunctures have precluded as inconceivable and inadmissible any attempt to give the UN privileges and power over its members similar to those enjoyed by FIFA.
Its leaders would be delighted to have powers comparable to those of the "owners of soccer, who from their castle in Zurich … do not propose, [but] impose" Galeano, , p. The UN developed an uncanny resemblance to the players in recent World Cups: "[they] were on their best behavior. On the other hand, this football freedom is entrapped by the specific development context of the sovereign rational and classificational system of politics.
There emerges a peculiar form of resistance here to this governing technique: "As soon as there is a power relation, there is a possibility of resistance. We can never be ensnared by power: we can always modify its grip in determinate conditions and according to a precise strategy" Foucault, , p.
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Children are severe judges, and the producers of this comic book should have taken more care with it. The team does not represent the whole organisation, for it contains no big names from Asia or Oceania. What's more, it only has 10 players, a goalie and 09 forwards or midfielders, whereas a proper team needs at least 11, including 04 defenders, to play a game according to the official rules.
Although the matches this all-star team is going to play in the UN's colours are intended to promote its goals, they still ought to follow the rules. Even in a children's comic book, and even when it is clear that power is being used for specific ends, this is no guarantee that the results will necessarily lead to achievement of the desired goals Heller, , pp.
The UN initiative to strengthen peace and development through sport ended unexpectedly and ingloriously in In any case, the dysfunctions and inherent weaknesses of this new UN organisation had already been signalled by Catherine Houston and Grant Jarvie:. Serving as an example of the way sport is conceptualised within the international humanitarian community, with significant interest and excitement but lacking in implementation, capacity and practice beyond advocacy.
Sport in the Global Society – Contemporary Perspectives
Interviews with officials highlighted three imperative barriers to the inclusion of sport for development and peace into the international humanitarian agenda: 1. Lack of Evidence. Lack of Funding. The lines of the UN's playing field were drawn over the ruins of the post-war world. History officially records it as having been founded in , when it joined the world's real football pitches and encountered the game's power of integration.
Football had been part of the everyday life of states, nations and individuals since the '30s when, as Macon Benoit puts it:. The game took on four main characteristics. First, it became an agent of international relations. The foreign policies of European nations became ostensibly articulated in the international game. Second, it became a source of political propaganda.
And finally, The new team that appeared on the pitches of international politics in the mid '40s had historic roots. It was a new version of the League of Nations, with new colours and badges. It was more representative than its predecessor, including all the great players of the international post-war reality.
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Mandatory unanimity was replaced by consensus with a greater volition for measures to prevent war. Its main characteristic was a mindset bent on using more, and more flexible, tactics. Mark Mazower highlights the particularity of the UN, challenging the traditional axiom "that the United Nations rose - like Aphrodite - from the Second World War, pure and uncontaminated by any significant association with that pre-war failure, the League of Nations" Mazower, , p. The UN was shaped by a vision of a universal organisation intended for the whole world, old and new.
There was, therefore, just one criterion for admission: the state had to be 'peace-loving'. Ideological conflicts notwithstanding, the victors of WWII were in agreement as to the size of their new stadium: it had to accommodate the entire world, without the exclusions of the past Mazower, , p. The war now shifted from the battlefield to the new playing fields of productive peace. This puts us on the trail of the UN's 'archaeological phase'. The new institution had been lumbered from the outset with the stuff of the predominant Western notion of the nation-state automatically integrated into the history "of the European 'ratio' from the Renaissance to our own day" Foucault, , p , p.
It began to formulate its own discourse, but within some specific thought systems and clearly defined historic and social conditions Mills, , p , p. However, its encounter with the entire planet, in whose name it speaks, created an intermediate space between the West and the rest of the world, revealing a history "of its conditions of possibility" Foucault, , p , p. What is of interest, then, is not just the institution itself but also the environment of the power system that brought the UN to the surface Gutting, , p , p. All this 'archaeology of knowledge' allowed the UN to be accepted voluntarily, just as the peoples of the world embraced football's freedom of expression in order to acquire identity and national awareness.
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Football had already begun to give everyone a weekly occasion for celebration. It became the church of the oppressed and excluded, as well as of those denied a vote because they were poor, black or coloured, or who lacked representation because there was no parliament. On a Sunday without soccer, people die of boredom" Galeano, , p , p. The post-war world of international politics became normalised like the world of football. The founding of the UN would have the same dual role, providing all countries with a platform for expression and guaranteeing security by preventing conflict.
Immediately after its 'archaeological emergence' the UN's very nature led to its 'genealogical manifestation', where knowledge interfaces with power and its transformations. This is a history of the present, which is traced and assessed through the bloodline of today's rules, practices and institutions Gutting, , p. Admission to the UN is considered to be the supreme confirmation of every state's international legitimacy. The powers of the post-war system gave the emerging nationalisms of the post-colonial world a democratic aspect.
In order to control them from within, being aware of the dangers to their interests of the spread of communism or capitalist democracy alike, they formalised this pluralism in the context of a democratic General Assembly. The now 'civilised' states became in their turn the protectors of the sovereign spirit of the UN, namely that the state is above 'dangerous' minorities' and other rights.
The old aristocratic spirit of the League of Nations returned, but with democratic national colours Mazower, , p , pp. The UN's ability to produce discourse as a subject of international politics in the context of its own hierarchy ran up against the corresponding hierarchical structures of the underlying individual member states.
The UN's course is the enduring outcome of the coarticulation of 'archaeological analysis and genealogy' with respect to the power game and its tactics with initiatives and limitations on both sides. In football's corresponding institutional reality, the new states seek immediate admission to the FIFA system. National entities associated with struggles for independence or autonomy use football as an additional string to their diplomatic bow.
The UN's home ground may look like any other splendid stadium, but the reality of post-war conflicts has obliged it to cynically redesign, for each match, the field on which it has played ball for more than 70 years. The post-war system of rule is based on continuous flexibility and adaptability, the outcome of the powerful states' determination to keep the UN from suffering the fate of the League of Nations.
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The endless bloodshed marring the pages of international politics in various regions of the world has forced the UN to appear on dirt pitches, playing a 'match of death' Riordan, for its aims and effectiveness. The UN's grand aims for world peace and security for states and peoples were compressed into the more confrontational framework of peaceful coexistence up until The UN is defined by sovereignty and security Slaughter, , the power of the nation-state still stamped with reminders of colonialism.
National discourse sanctifies the new space occupied by the UN, which is diffused throughout the world with the prestige of the original institution. Every form of discourse that escapes the framework of the UN is condemned as incompatible with the dictates of the sovereign dogma of power FoucaulT, , p , p. This, along with the name of the 'Cold War' and its conflictual agenda with crises large and small, underlines the elitist side of the UN. Its structure, with the special position of the Security Council of WWII victors compared to that of the General Assembly, is a constant reminder that the UN framework serves primarily the game of the leading powers and their interests.
This dual nature is what makes the UN the hope of the world and at the same time the protector of the strong. On the one hand it offers all states and peoples the prospect of solidarity, proclaiming in the Preamble of its Charter that "We the people of the United Nations, determined to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small" 5.
On the other, the veto of the five permanent members of the Security Council perpetuates on the collective level the imperial superstructure of the UN over the democratic base of the remaining members. The primordial pledge of that 'we', however, namely "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" 6 , has only protected the strong countries from war.
How could it be otherwise? As Stephen Wagg vividly puts it, the British had first kick at the ball in the modern world, teaching it the game with missionary zeal Wagg, , p. Along with the game of parliamentary democracy, football travelled from Britain's colleges and working class neighbourhoods to every port in the world.