Events


Foreign Policy Panel: Games that Unite

Date : Jul 12, 2018
Time : 5:45PM To 7:30PM
Place : Hemisphere Suites, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, DC

Registration and Reception 5:45pm-6:30pm, Program 6:30pm-7:30pm

 

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On July 12, 2018 the World Affairs Council-Washington, DC hosted a Foreign Policy Panel with leading experts on the role of sports in diplomacy. The panel included Amb. Lino Gutierrez, Director of the Una Chapman Cox Foundation, Soolmaz Abooali, professor of sport, conflict resolution, and diplomacy at George Mason University. The discussion was moderated by Noah Frank, a digital sports editor at the radio station WTOP.


Stephanie Fassler, the Director of International Affairs at WAC-DC, gave a brief introduction on the history of diplomatic use of sports while also weighing the pros and cons.


Noah Frank introduced the assumption that sports can be seen as escapist from the political world when in fact he believes it is quite the opposite. Frank brought up examples in history such as Jesse Owens and Kylian Mbappe to show how politics and sports are intertwined. He then asked Soolmaz if she finds common ground through her competitions. Soolmaz does find common ground and explained her theory of sports in conflict resolution through her research and personal experience as a 12 time US champion in traditional karate.


Noah Frank then posed to Amb. Gutierrez what efforts has he seen throughout his career using sports in diplomacy. Amb. Gutierrez gave his personal view of sports being used as a soft power within diplomacy in order to promote a country’s culture and values. For example, this has been done in the US through the Nixon presidency and ping pong diplomacy with China.


The panel came to a consensus that goodwill can be promoted through sports and diplomacy as we have seen through envoys like Michelle Kwan and positive historical examples such as the recent Korea Olympics. However, the 1936 Nazi Germany Olympics showed how negative ideology can also be promoted through sports. The panelist’s observed that at a macro level NGO’s and governments often invest in these sports diplomacy programs to further promote their values. Soolmaz’s research aims to better understand the thought process of using sports to resolve conflict so that these programs can be strengthened.


The panel concluded with an optimistic prediction of diplomatic relations between Canada, US, and Mexico at the 2026 World Cup.


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In partnership with the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.