Politics directly related with economic issues, influence the course of action one country might choose against another and certainly affect the role of sports, since they are a vital part of a nation’s role in the global scene. Through boycotting sports events or using athletes for propaganda purposes, individual countries have tried over past practices to impose their political views and affect the world’s understanding. But especially because of the immense public’s interest in international athletic events, influencing political views and gaining valuable exchange power becomes an important issue on a nation’s sport agenda, while the danger of engagement in ‘country-battles’ in the international relations field, does not always count as a serious disadvantage.
At the same time, the commercialism that accompanies spectator sports gradually engulfs both amateur and professional events. By the late 20th century, the televising of athletic events had made sports as the ‘new’ big business. On the other hand, the expanding public concern on personal physical health led to mass participation, not necessarily competitive, in sports like running, hiking, cycling, martial arts, and gymnastics. Athletic activity by women expanded, especially after political action in the 1960s and 1970s opening close doors of the past to many forms of competition and an increased share of public funding for sports.
Private interests for profit and publicity work alongside with more global issues like economic integration and free trade, and as they have already proved they will surely continue to affect sports future role. Countries use sports either to impose their economic power over others, or to elevate their current one. Due to sports’ great costs, governments engage themselves in promoting and supporting these economic needs by authorising special public monetary programs or by seeking private financing (lecture notes). Corporate sponsorships are today a reality, as companies spend about $6 billion annually sponsoring activities ranging from the Olympic Games to the World Cup. The popularity of sponsored events is increasing due to several reasons. They enhance the reputation and image of the sponsor, they provide a focal point for marketing efforts and sales campaigns, and they generate publicity and media coverage. More cost-effective than advertising, sponsorships include prestige and at times target a worldwide audience. Broadcasting rights, ticket sales, merchandising, and sponsorships, are the main reasons of sport’s unique role for a country’s strategy.
Historically proven, sport has acted as a liaison between nations and contributed to their evolution. Beginning with the sociological, psychological and physiological aspects of the human nature, sport has gained the praise of people worldwide, as it has contributed to their well being. Group-oriented, since in order to be a winner one has to compete, sport brings people closer together and generates team-spirit along with mind and physical awareness. Moreover, living today in the information age, sport experts believe that sport is greatly influenced by the actions of individual nations, as well as by the international trends that influence the world economy. As sport is always a spectacle, sport athletes have become professional ambassadors that through them their country’s culture is promoted and their achievements contribute to its fame. Sports in this global society has become lately an issue of great concern and studies worldwide provide valuable information about the political, geographical, economic, cultural, social, aesthetic and historical aspects of sport that will ‘shape’ its future role.