Sport and the end of apartheid

Marc Keech, Barry Houlihan

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The contribution of sport to the ending of apartheid is examined. It is argued that claims for the effectiveness of sports diplomacy often exceeds the available evidence. However, the association between opposition to apartheid and sport was strong at least from the early 1960s up to the transition to democracy. It is argued that while it is clearly impossible to quantify the contribution made by sports sanctions to the end of apartheid it is possible to provide indicators of significance. The selected indicators of significance are the capacity of the opposition sports organizations to influence the agendas of international sports organizations, international bodies, including the UN and the Commonwealth, and, at domestic level, the capacity to promote a substantial response from the government and the ANC. It is concluded that sport fulfilled an important symbolic function in the anti-apartheid struggle and was able to influence the other policy actors, but generally to a far less significant extent than is usually asserted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-121
Number of pages13
JournalThe Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs
Issue number349
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2010


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