The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘nationalism’

Situatiolympics – Abstracts

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 17, 2008

Today’s Boston Globe section “Uncommon Knowledge” abstracts several interesting studies related to the olympics, including two that are quite situationist: one discussing bias in Olympic coverage and the other examining the influence of expectations and counterfactual thinking among medalists. We’ve excerpted those two abstracts below.

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Billings, A. et al., “The Games Through the NBC Lens: Gender, Ethnic, and National Equity in the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics,” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media (June 2008):

This study out of Clemson catalogued all commentary by NBC-affiliated personalities during the network’s prime-time coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Not only were men covered and mentioned more extensively (even when the women were more successful), but attributions of success and failure differed by gender, too. Male athletes were seen as more composed and intelligent in victory, and less committed in defeat. Female athletes were seen as more courageous in victory, and weaker athletes in defeat. The differences were more prevalent among on-site reporters than among the (more scripted) anchors. A similar pattern was found with regard to nationality. Americans were seen as having more concentration, composure, commitment, and courage in victory, while non-Americans were granted more athletic skill. The authors note that “parallels between long-held racial stereotypes (e.g., blacks being ‘born’ athletes and whites being superior intellectually) may transfer in similar ways within the domain of nationalism.”

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McGraw, P. et al., “Expectations and Emotions of Olympic Athletes,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (July 2005) (pdf here):

After the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, a team of psychologists published a widely cited study showing that Olympic athletes who had just won a bronze medal appeared to be happier than those who had just won a silver medal. The psychologists concluded that athletes’ emotional responses were not explained by missed expectations but, instead, by close-call counterfactuals: Bronze-medal winners were focused on the fact that they had come close to not winning a medal at all, while the silver-medal winners were focused on the fact that they had come close to winning a gold medal. After the 2000 Sydney Olympics, another team of psychologists updated these findings with a renewed emphasis on the role of prior expectations. They repeated the earlier study – but this time with Sydney athletes, and not just with bronze- and silver-medal winners – and found that performance, relative to media predictions or qualifying-event finishes, was the primary determinant of athletes’ emotions.

Posted in Abstracts, Emotions, Implicit Associations, Positive Psychology, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Can Sports Save the World? (& what must be done beforehand) – Part I

Posted by Jason Chung on July 21, 2008

Author’s note: This post is the first of a multi-part series examining the relationship between politics and sport and what political prerequisites must exist before sport can have a deeper reconciliatory effect among peoples within states and between states. These works are part of the author’s Masters thesis.

With the 2008 Beijing Olympic Summer Games fast approaching, there has been much speculation as to how the Olympics will impact China’s socio-political development. On one hand, Western international news organizations such as CNN and the BBC predict the Olympics could become highly politicized with human rights protests. The Chinese news agency Xinhua, however, espouses the Chinese state’s upbeat view that these Olympics will help “integrate itself into the world.” Interestingly, a core assumption regarding sport may be driving this debate: sports play a crucial role in defining how a state’s populace views itself and how it interacts with other states.

Indeed, the perception that sport has a role to play in the social, ethnic, and political relations which define dynamics within and between states has spread to various world elites and social actors. Thus far, most of the attention that sport has received has been positive. World opinion leaders, such as Nelson Mandela, note that

[s]port has the power to unite people in a way little else can. Sport can create hope where there was once only despair. It breaks down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of discrimination. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand.

At a cursory glance, the links between sport and inter-state reconciliation seem abundant. Some pundits credit Ping-Pong Diplomacy with facilitating the subsequent thaw of U.S.-China relations in the 1970s. Others point to Table Tennis Diplomacy and the attempted Olympic Diplomacy as effective difference-bridges between the two Koreas in the latter decades of the 20th century. More generally, there has been a widely held sense that sports, in Jeremy Goldberg‘s words, serve as “a ‘safe’ way to ease a country out of isolation, acting as a first step of engagement, if not the first step.”

This transformation of conflict-laden bonds is not limited to inter-state rivalries. In 2007, following the apparent success of the Côte d’Ivoire’s national men’s football team in rallying the country and ending a five-year long civil war between Northern rebels and the government-controlled South, a spokesman for the Minister for Sport in Côte d’Ivoire, Geoffrey Baillet, had this to say:

We, the politicians, we went to the best universities; we’re the intellectuals, the supposed leaders of the country. But when it came to making peace, we failed. It’s a group of soccer players that brought us together. [Ivorian football star] Didier Drogba came from nothing. Now he’s a worldwide star and a hero for us. He’s done a great thing for his country.

Hence, sport appears to possess a quality which promotes not only inter-state reconciliation but also intra-state reconciliation. Judging from both the aforementioned Ivorian example and the images of a celebrating multi-ethnic Iraq following that country’s victory in the Asian Football Confederation Championship, it would seem that sport has at least a temporary ability to create intra-state linkages between conflicting factions.

National-level sporting events are therefore perceived to offer reconciliatory powers and diplomatic significance by members of society and powerful elites. In both countries experiencing either “cold” (potential) or “hot” (open and violent) inter-state and intra-state conflicts, there have been concrete examples in which at least a segment of those involved point to sport as a significant factor in obtaining reconciliation. For one reason or another, sport seems to have a unique ability to transcend common social cleavages such as class, nationality, and race and create bonds between sides in conflict.

It remains to be seen, however, how much of this sentiment can be attributed to mere platitudes versus how much influence sport has as a tool of political and social reconciliation between and within states.

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In the coming months on The Situationist, I will draw from various theoretical backgrounds – including social psychology and political science – to explore the relationship between sport and politics. I will conclude this series by advancing a general framework for gauging the effectiveness of sport in resolving long-standing social and political issues.

Comments and observations are most welcome and may very well be incorporated within future posts. If you currently hold an academic or professional affiliation, and consent to being quoted by the author, please sign your posts with your title and institutional affiliation. I look forward to a candid discussion regarding sport and politics!

Posted in Conflict, History, Politics, Public Policy, Situationist Sports, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

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