Sport, geopolitics and Russia. A short history

Throughout the last 70 plus years, the Soviet Union and Russia have used large sporting events for both geopolitical and domestic purposes. While the latter often brought about desired results, achieving success in the former continues to elude Russia. This year the Kremlin will most likely try to use the FIFA World Cup to show the world that Russia matters, and showcase Putin as a powerful world leader.

William Shankly, the legendary coach of the Liverpool Football Club, was known for saying that football mattered more than life itself. If such words can be articulated about football in particular what can be said about sport in general? The role that sport plays in society has been recognised since ancient times. The Romans believed, in the words of the ancient Roman poet Juvenal, that people are only interested in “bread and circuses”. Those “circuses” became an integral part of social and political life throughout the ages. Yet it was in the second half of the 20th century, and the rise of television, when sporting events became entertainment for the masses. During the Cold War, sport competition became a part of international rivalry, pitting one ideology against another.

April 26, 2018 - Anna Maria Dyner