Why sport is vital to national identity

SPORT HELPS people to form opinions of whole nations, according to two speakers at the Play the Game conference writes Danni Cox.

Russell Holden, Director of In The Zone, a sport and politics consultancy, said that commercialism and neo-liberalism are helping to project Wales as a nation and are also being used to generate income. Agim Islami of the Tennis Federation of Kosovo explained that his country was hoping international sport would play a similar role in its own national identity.

“We’ve been recognized by 60 countries but our sport is not still involved in international competitions,” said Islami. “The rules of every international federation state that we should be a member of United Nations and then our Olympic Committee will be accepted as a member with full rights in the IOC… otherwise our athletes will give up sport and turn towards crime and drugs which is not good for Europe and for us and for the world.”

Islami believes that getting support for Kosovan sport as soon as possible is essential for his country and the image it projects. “The image of the country is the state of the young generation. If you have a lot of drug abusers and crime your image will be as bad as possible so the sport we see as the means of smoothing down the economical problems, unemployment and the problems the new state is facing in the beginning.”

Holden’s experience in Wales confirms this point of view. “Sports are central to national identity, framing national identity and shaping national identity. It’s essential for projecting a country, and its people and its strengths and facilities and what it has to offer.”

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