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Essay Writing on Global Sports Boycotts

Global Sports Boycotts






City and State




Boycotts can either be sporting, cultural or academic due to their particular objective and focus. Through sanctions, boycotts are an expression of displeasure, discontent, disapproval as well as anger for the actions carried out by an organization, government or any other ruling body that exercises authority and power. People who are part of solidarity work aspire to strengthen and build a global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. International and domestic movements, trade unions, social justice organizations, initiatives and campaigns are of great importance in effecting global solidarity activism (FD 2012, p. 3). In South Africa, BDS are part of the Anti-apartheid historical movement. They were later joined by civil societies, activists, churches as well as other groups with the purpose of attaining a stronger political and social impact in future. In 1999, Philip Levy made the acknowledgment that several various sanctions were used in the course of apartheid period in SA. He termed these as successful on the basis of the various economic challenges they addressed as well as transformation of the political landscape. In 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected as the president in SA after he successfully led the struggle for independence. With the help of other leaders, they were able to impose economic sanctions in the attempt of encouraging democratic transition within the country.

The regime of apartheid occurred in 1948 and it culminated with independence declaration in 1994. Tomlinson and Young (2006) acknowledged sporting is used frequently in promoting political agendas. According to Sage and Eitzen (2009), these can either be propagandas or unifying. The most powerful sports vehicles used to influence the attention of the media as well as participation at a local and international level is the Olympics.

The principals of ‘Olympism’ aim at pursuit of peace. The Olympic Charter defines it as the philosophy combining balanced qualities of the mind, body and will for the purpose of exalting the education and culture from sports. A life that is full of value, joy due to ethics, effort, education and respect is achieved through Olympism. According to the platform of Olympism (2011), through placing a sports activity at the central part of a development plan that is harmonious helps to promote peace not only in the society but the country and also prserve and conserve human dignity (Peter 2007, p. 1)

In South Africa, sports boycotts aim at achieving societal changes that are positive and which are based on socio-cultural and socio-political transitions witnessed as a result of the democratic and apartheid regime dispensations. SA was a country recognized globally with imperialism, racial discrimination, colonialism, and subjugation. These are applicable to all areas of social life which includes cultures and sports. During apartheid regime, struggles through political liberty and sports fights by the discriminated and oppressed Native SA were entwined. Sports boycotts served as the direct response to racism, defeat and fights. As such, the country believes politics and sports mix and relate (Peter 2007, p. 4).

For the longest time, SA maintained a tradition and history that was rich through taking part in sporting activities internationally as well as domestically. Due to the success stories the country has enjoyed since 19th century, it is nicknamed as Sport Mad Nation. According to Nongogo (2004), the sporting era in SA was developed and organized by capitalist system and a formal British military organization in 1795 (Peter 2007, p. 15).

The first sport activities recorded in Cape Town were a rugby match in 1862 and cricket during the 19th century between civilians and the military. South Africa in 1884 took part in international sports activities. The modern Olympics games followed later in 1893 and 1896. During the 1930s, the country boycotted the Olympics of 1939 because of racial discrimination as well as exclusions. Settlers who were in the country were in support of racism, chauvinism and discrimination. Therefore, apartheid regime created relations that were intricate between South Africans and these were manifested in the field of sports. The structure of apartheid sport was created after National Party government in 1948 carried out ruling mandates. Sports women and men were looking for a society where sport would be a uniting factor and nor a platform for spreading hate, fights and racism. For instance, in 1919, a SA man (Ranje) was denied the opportunity of attending a rugby game that was between SA and New Zealand on the basis of color (Ramsay 2004. p. 5).

International action was taken in 1963 against apartheid sport which was led by SANROC. South Africans who were white were suspended from the 1964 and 1968 Olympics (Daniel 2012, p. 11). Additionally, they were expelled from the Olympic movement in 1970 and this was followed by FIFA expelling the country from the world of soccer in 1976. As a result of this, a SA tour by Springbok got cancelled. In 1980, the UN started to compile a South Africa list with Sports Contacts register. It comprised of sports officials and people who took part in sporting activities in the country on the reports and newspaper articles published. While the list was not in any way a form of punishment, it was looked upon as unethical moral pressure on SA athletes. This is due to the fact sport bodies within the country started punishing and disciplining athletes on the basis of the register compiled. Taking into consideration their names could not be deleted, it was seen as an efficient instrument at that time (Daniel, 2012).

When in 1964 the International Olympic Committee withdrew its invitation to SA from attending Summer Olympics, Jan de Klerk, the then minister argued that it was not possible to integrate a South African team on the basis of race. After offering reassurances that the team was going to be a multiracial one, International Olympic Committee started to prepare readmitting South Africa. The action however was exacerbated when the International Olympic Committee was threatened by other African nations with a boycott (Thomas 1988, p. 23).

South African Games, in 1969 and 1973 were expected to take place. They represented an opportunity where the Olympic level competition for the country against foreign sports women and men would occur. However, the International Olympic Committee, in 1970 expelled SA formally. As such, African states started to demand New Zealand should be suspended as well by the committee due to its consistent and continued relations with SA (Peter 2007, p. 11) The International Olympic Committee however failed to give in to this demands and this led to additional African teams withdrawing from the games. The commonwealth, in 1977 adopted Gleneagles Agreement as the attribution of withdrawal of the African states (Steve 2008, p. 3). Declaration against apartheid in sports as such was adopted in 1988 by the International Olympic committee as it agreed it would isolate apartheid sports (Peter 2007, p. 11).

After the Apartheid

Officially, the apartheid came to an end in 1994 when the ANC (African National Congress) took over the administration of the South African government under the nation’s policy on racial segregation. ANC was able to institute reforms throughout the country in the attempt of promoting civil rights, human rights, economic growth, equality and prosperity to all citizens. The economy of the nation was entrenched in racism legacy. Under the duration of the apartheid, majority of the South Africans remained poor largely because of policies that were poorly executed. Colored people and blacks in SA were denied their political and human rights, freedom of movement and the right to own property and they were undertaking all manner of activities. They were expected to set up self-governing civilizations, societies, evolutions and cultures as well as restrained from their homeland (Gale 2008, p. 1).

In 1996, a new constitution was adopted that ensured South Africans enjoyed equal rights as the whites. Education, which was segregated to White South Africans in the course of apartheid regime with spending that was 10 times higher than that of black students was opened to all the citizens. However, whites had already acquired more training and education as such they continued to hold position of dominance in business even after apartheid. As a result of inferior education received by the blacks and their insufficient training, they continued to experience challenges of getting equal opportunities for employment even as the economy of the country continued to grow (Sabeels 2007, p. 24).

The core principles and values in International Olympic Committee have proven to be fair play, encouraged World peace as well as overshadowed tension among the nations that were involved in civil, political and democratic wars. South Africans participated in sport boycotts at a time when the Cold War had reached its climax over Suez Canal problems existing between China and Taiwan. It was also at that time that Spain, Egypt, Switzerland, China, Netherlands, Iraq and Lebanon opted to boycott Olympic Games. This was a historical period in the records of the Olympics to have such a high number of States boycotting sports. Also, physical violence among the players from Hungary and the Soviet Union was seen. Though the boycotts had a negative impact, their positive effects were also seen (Gale 2008, p. 1).

For the very first time, athletes who were present at closing ceremony walked into the field as one group instead of one as is usually the case. As such, the Olympic Games served as the platform where world problems, issues and challenges were addressed. From the experience, it became evident that politics and sports are intertwined structures relying on each other to positively impact the world. Other boycotts witnessed were those in Hungary when a water polo player Ervin Zador publicly made his wishes known regarding separation of politics from sports (Reddy 2008, p. 43). However, the player declared his was a dream as in the current world that would never happen. As such, just in the same manner that sports was used in SA to shape a good and close to perfect economy, social and human rights freedoms and political platforms, then sports-politics relationship can be applied to seek positive effects in countries that are under instabilities, misunderstandings and democratic fights (Nongogo 2004, p. 25).

Importance of Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movements

Divestment, boycott and sanction movements in majority of nations, especially Israel and Palestine based their strategies on those ones used in SA boycotts (John 2010, p. 12). Before the divestment, boycott and sanction movements developed and grew in SA to global movements, trade unions, political parties and churches were involved in fight against discrimination and racism as a result of apartheid regime. After implementation and development stages were successful, the movements were powerful, strong and inevitable in the attempt of overthrowing the SA apartheid regime. United Nations World Conference against racism in 2001 convened in Durban, SA to recognize colonialism crimes, racism and slavery in the country. Other countries that also formed sports boycotts or ensure these movements call for cultural maintenance, investments, support, academic uplifting signing of cooperation agreement and maintaining diplomatic and economic relations with other states.


In SA, sport boycotts were part of political struggle towards achieving freedoms and also ending an era of oppression, racism and discrimination. African National Congress and Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) undertook campaigns against apartheid as well. The oppressed, discriminated and shunned maintained and gained hope and focus on sport boycotts and campaigns that were anti-apartheid in the country. They felt empowered when with other African states that were independent declared support for SA against International Olympic Committee. It is evident the participation of the country in Olympic Games between 1908 and 1960 was marred with oppression, racial discrimination, ethical disciplinary measures as well as torture. However, in mid 1940s, resistance against the impacts started building while in the mid 1950s, the struggle begun. The boycotts in 1990s reduced till in 1992 when SA was readmitted to Olympic fraternity. As such, boycotts were efficient and effective in SA and they also put to an end post and pre-apartheid regime. Also, they reduced the negativity associated with spread of apartheid in the country not just in sports but also among the organizations, community and country at large.




Daniel, G., 2012, The Emergence of International Society in the 1920s, Cambridge University Press.

Forum Declaration (FD), 2012, The Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement: The Economic War Against the Jewish State, An Analysis of Israel and the Middle East Divestment, 1:1-8.

Gale, G., 2008, Global Issues in Context: Apartheid Portal Contents, Perspectives on International News and Events, Gale Group Journal,1: 1-26.

John, H., 2010, Boycott Divestment Sanctions: Winning Justice for the Palestinian People, Fighting Global Poverty Journal, 1: 1-32.

Nongogo, P., 2004, The Origins and Development of Black Rugby in East London and Mdantsane: A Case Study of Selected Clubs, Forte Hare University, Alice, Eastern Cape South Africa.

Peter, H., 2007, Apartheid: The Political Influence of Sport, Mail & Guardian.

Philip, L., 1999, Sanctions on South Africa: What did they do? Yale University, Centre Discussion Paper 796: 1-14.

Ramsamy, S., 2004, Reflections on a Life in Sport, Greenhouse: Cape Town, North American Society for Sport History.

Reddy, E, S., 2008, Sports and the Liberation Struggle: A Tribute to Sam Ramsamy and Others who Fought Apartheid Sport, Gandhi Luthuli Documentation Centre.

Sabeels, C., 2007, Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign: Towards a Global Movement.

Sage, G. H & Eitzen, S. D., 2009, Sociology of North American Sport, Boulder Paradigm Publishers.

Steve, W., 2008, From Montreal to Gleneagles, Journal of Contemporary History.

The Olympic Museum, 2011, The Olympic Museum Education Kit: Hope When Sport can Change the World, Exhibition Workshop the Hope Factory, 1: 1-32.

Thomas, R., 1988, United Nations Contacts with South Africa, New York Times.

Tomlinson, A & Young, C., 2006, National Identity and Global Sports Events: Culture, Politics and Spectacle in the Olympics and the Football World Cup, Albany, State University of New York.

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