Sport, empire and diplomacy: ‘Ireland” at the 1930 British Empire Games.

2016-07-01T13:55:32Z (GMT) by Katie Liston Joseph Maguire
International sport, as Geoffrey Pigman has correctly observed, emerged “as a quintessential case study demonstrating the part that public diplomacy plays in contemporary diplomacy.” The British Empire Games/Commonwealth Games [BEG/CG] are one such example, being the second largest multi-national multi-sport event today. Their origins lie in the interwar era when members of sporting organisations, many of whom were active in other formal aspects of public life, considered the organisation of specific Imperial events through international networking. Described as lacking a “thoroughly analytical and interpretive account of their history,” questions of identity politics, public diplomacy and statecraft are at their core because the BEG, inaugurated in 1930, represented qualities and values that appealed to governments, civil society, and sportspeople alike. In the waning of the British Empire, the BEG was one attempt to maintain Imperial prestige and cement cultural bonds. Yet, not only is there an absence of analytical accounts of their history, but the inter-relationships between the BEG and diplomacy, and among global sport and diplomacy more broadly, have been similarly under-investigated. This absence is striking, representing a missed opportunity in understanding the development of global sport and international relations more generally.