Filling in the gaps: how sport has become more global in 2010

During 2010, senior political figures in several parts of the world have shown more interest in sport than ever before. The new enthusiasm in countries which have previously been under-represented in international sport will have important implications.

Some of the countries where significant developments have taken place this year are India, Qatar, South Africa, Russia and Georgia:

- India – Indian athletes won 101 medals at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, which represents a major advance for a country whose huge population has historically under-achieved at the top level in many Olympic sports
- Qatar – Middle Eastern countries have not featured prominently in the FIFA World Cup in the past. As a future host, Qatar is now under pressure to develop a competitive team
- South Africa –  the country already had a successful record of hosting major cricket and rugby events. Now that the World Cup has been added to the list, South African cities will be competing to join the international circuit for calendar events in a wide range of sports. There will also be an IOC Session in Durban next July
- Russia – with a number of new stadia needed in preparation for the 2018 World Cup, leading Russian football clubs could well feature prominently in the UEFA Champions League in the near future. As the Olympic Winter Games and World Cup will take place in Russia in the space of four years it’s clear that planning will involve the highest levels of government
- Georgia – soon after the tragic death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili at the Olympic Winter Games in February, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili himself travelled to Vancouver and gave a press conference about the accident, demonstrating how sports competitions can rapidly escalate into diplomatic incidents

The combination of heightened political interest in sport together with the  contentious World Cup bidding campaign and investigations into match-fixing in several sports is likely to result in increased scrutiny of the governance of sport in 2011 and beyond.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a high profile legal case or government enquiry relating to sport in the near future. Meanwhile, elections for senior positions in sports organisations look set to be more competitive than ever before, with candidates emerging from countries that are newly engaged in sporting politics.

The challenge for major sports organisations and their sponsors is to get themselves ready for this intense scrutiny: better to ask difficult questions now on your own terms rather than waiting to answer questions on somebody else’s terms at a later date.

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