Where does sport fit into diplomacy and governance? This terrific question brought me to London for four days of meetings, presentations, roundtables, and informal discussions at the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS. And resulted in fantastic onwards questions and ideas.
I learned more on women's football at the Upfront and Onside #HiddenHistory conference in 48-hours than you can possibly imagine. And I'm struck by many similarities and differences to both the men’s game as well as other global sports like basketball. Here are a few key take-always as I continue to process the vast quantities of information and ideals downloaded:
Instead of suffering the post-Olympics blues, I’ve been crazily inundated with global sports. From the second window of FIBA World Cup qualifiers, where France secured their berth in the next round of playoff competition, to the start of the She Believes Cup, it’s been a big week, one that’s not yet over! Sunday Les Bleues play the USWNT here in the New York area, conveniently setting my mood to finish a paper I’m giving next week—more on that soon. But before I dial back into women’s football, I’m eyeing the West Coast Conference in Las Vegas today and its 2018 Hall of Honor inductees, including one French basketteur, Ronny Turiaf (congrats!).
The annual extravaganza kicks-off tonight with the Rising Stars Challenge where New York Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina will make his debut with Team World. It’s yet another ‘first’ for the 19-year old rookie Frenchman, who is starting to settle in to the league—helped possibly by the echoes of French in the locker room (teammates Joakim Noah and Emmanuel Mudiay are both fluent). Like generations of other ‘Frenchies’ in the NBA (who have similarly arrived more or less fluent in English), Ntilikina still has an aura of starry-eyed optimism surrounding his desire to succeed.
As you’re getting ready for today’s Super Bowl spectacle, it’s a good time to recall that #EverythingHasAHistory. Including American football which, as Ben Halls at VICE Sports reminds us, is a much closer cousin to rugby than many Americans likely realize. In fact, the changes that occurred as American football developed in the late nineteenth century leads to one of the earliest, surprising, and fascinating stories of transatlantic influences in French sport.
Women from North and South Korea will compete together as a unified ice hockey team at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, the latest example of sport’s power to unite. It’s a triumph for sports diplomacy, an illustration of how people can learn and better understand each other despite divisions through people-to-people interactions. And while everyone will be watching the team, for many other elite athletes, sports bridges cultures on a daily basis.