sport diplomacy

Both Iranian and American football fans were brought to their knees through tragic goals in injury time in Brazil last week, perhaps a cruel reminder that sport is intrinsically apolitical. While the teams temporarily provided company for the other’s misery, it serves as a reminder of how sport has helped bring the United States and Iran together, and in some instances, made them the “strongest allies”.

In England, it was called the Tebbit Test. The right-wing politician Norman Tebbit suggested in 1990 that immigrants from South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean would not be truly assimilated until they supported their new country, rather than their respective homelands, in cricket. Thankfully, we have no such test in the United States; in a nation of immigrants, plenty of people feel allegiance to more than one team. But why is the American World Cup squad winning over more and more people with strong links to other nations?

India today proposed new ideas for further enhancing cooperation with Bhutan while asserting that commitments made by the previous government will be fulfilled. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is accompanying Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bhutan on his maiden foreign visit, told reporters here that the Indian side was "extremely satisfied" with the "extremely successful" visit. Swaraj said Prime Minister Modi gave some new suggestions to Bhutan.

Five minutes before the first match of the World Cup, 400 people were packed into the residence of Brazilian Ambassador Mauro Vieira for Thursday’s opening game from São Paulo. Men, women, even babies were transfixed by the 10 huge television screens, afraid to miss one second of the action. In this alternate universe, the gods are bronzed-faced Adonises and everyone bleeds yellow and green. Every four years, diplomatic Washington takes an unofficial sabbatical. Embassies insist that work will continue uninterrupted during the month-long World Cup. Everyone is lying.

An hour before Game 4 of the NBA Finals, LeBron James was talking about the World Cup. A couple of Brazilian journalists nodded excitedly as he spoke, perhaps in part because soccer’s signature event is being hosted in their futbol-mad country. Chinese journalists were there as well, logging every word that James was saying because of his enormous following in their homeland.

Brazil’s jogo bonito is globally recognized as an ideal combination of sports, culture, and national personality. Given this backdrop, Cobi Jones and Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak, visited Manaus, Brasília, Fortaleza, Natal, and Recife as U.S. Department of State Sports Envoys to share more about their experiences off-the-pitch than on it.  The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs together with Mission Brazil partnered to implement the “Sports for All” strategy that uses sports to engender greater social inclusion, promote education, and teach job skills. 

In recent months, German, Swiss, Swedish, and Polish bids to hold the 2022 Winter Olympics have been withdrawn over concerns about cost. Munich and Davos-St. Moritz withdrew after voters rejected their Olympic bids. So did Krakow, where more than 70 percent voted against the idea in a referendum, despite the perceived success of the feel-good European soccer championships held in Poland and Ukraine in 2012.

Argentina, the United States and Iran appear to be the most disliked World Cup teams. Brazilian fans enter the World Cup as the most confident, though Argentines and Spaniards aren’t far behind in their home-country optimism. And fans across many countries agree that the Brazilians play the most attractive form of soccer. These are among the results from a study of people in 19 countries conducted by YouGov, the online survey firm, in collaboration with The Upshot.