The Politics of Sports and National Identity


Sports are important to the development of a nation and are often seen as a sign of cultural identity. Yet sports are not the only activity that fosters national identity. There are also many social problems linked to the development of sports. Poorer nations often lack the resources necessary to nurture athletic talent and lose their top athletes to more powerful nations who have more favourable training facilities, stiffer competition, and more lucrative opportunities.

In the 19th century, sports began to be used as “patriot games” to construct national identities. Both established groups and outsiders used sports to bolster national identity. Sports are also useful in illustrating the politics of national identity. As a result, a country’s national identity may be closely tied to its sports, especially if it is tied to its culture.

In the 20th century, the relationship between sports and the mass media has evolved and changed. As new technologies and the media market grew, sports gained mass appeal and a growing number of paying spectators. As a result, commercial mass media saw sports as an inexpensive source of content and an ideal vehicle to capture audience interest for advertisers. At the same time, state and public media began to see sporting events as opportunities to strengthen national culture and patriotism.

Modern sports developed in Britain and spread from the privileged classes to the common people. The advent of national organizations helped standardize rules and transform sporadic challenge matches into systematic league competitions. These organizations also certify athletes’ eligibility and record results. Athletics and rowing became popular in the early 18th century and began to attract a large following. As a result, the Amateur Athletic Association was founded in 1862 and the first sports meet was held.