Does Cultural Policy affect our participation in sport?
When you watch sporting events, there are a number of ways cultural policies are tied into how they are able operate. The cultural policies, which in most cases are created by governments, affect sports organisations or bodies, players, coaches, commentators, and other participants. Interestingly enough, the impacts of such policies extend beyond the spaces where sports are participated in. One example would be when the Taliban in Afghanistan placed a ban on women participating in sport between 1996 and 2001. Ultimately, women could not be represented in major sporting events like international cricket or soccer tours until the U.S led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Again in 2021, women faced prospects of a similar ban when the Taliban regained control after 10 years of conflict. Fortunately, they were able to participate in sport as long as they kept to religious and cultural attire defined by the government.
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When applied, cultural policy can give governments a form of power and control over how citizens or residents behave within the local society. In relation to sport, it can influence how they are able to participate within not only the local arenas, but global ones as well. One scenario to consider would be the Winter Olympics 2022 in Beijing, where Yang Shu, the deputy director general of Beijing 2022’s International Relations Department said, according to ESPN, “any protesters that violate ‘the Olympic spirit’ or Chinese law could be subject to unspecified punishment by the host country.”
While it is neither clear which Chinese laws would be broken nor what punishment would be given to those who break it, there is a strong likelihood of cultural policy playing a role in limiting the freedom of expression of athletes. When challenged it would likely not only limit expression, but even the ability to participate in events on a global platform. A perfect example which has been fairly sensitive would be involving the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who had disappeared suddenly after sexual assault allegations against a former Chinese vice-premier. The claim which was posted on Chinese social media, Weibo was deleted within an hour of posting. Any search results on Peng Shuai also became restricted whilst Mainstream Media avoided the story and subject matter all together. It emphasises that a cultural policy of what some might call ‘strong censorship’ in countries like China can have an impact on participation in the sporting arena, even if it is claimed by politicians and sporting bodies that “politics and sport are separate”.
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The previous examples you might argue are “expected” in what we could label ‘authoritarian countries’ by nature. But, it is becoming a subject of debate even in democratic societies or the more ‘liberal countries’ if you will. Take for instance, athletes taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem in the U.S., in protest of the racial injustices on black people in America and ongoing police brutality. While the Former U.S President Donald, J. Trump, suggested measures be taken to prevent any further protests happening during the national anthem, the laws in most states indicate that athletes cannot be fired or disciplined for reasons that go against the state’s public policies.
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Therefore we can already see that cultural policy is clearly “political”. And as demonstrated in the sporting arena can have major consequences on participation within sport.