Sports Diplomacy with Ambassador Shearer

May 06, 2014

Ambassador Derek Shearer, former U.S. Ambassador to Finland and current professor at Occidental College, delivered a lecture on “Sports, Diplomacy and Soft Power” on April 30 as part of the Future of Diplomacy Project’s speaker series. Sports can have three important diplomatic purposes, said Shearer: they can create an avenue for dialogue (“breaking the ice”), raise a nation’s profile and “sell” a national brand.

Sports had paved the way to more robust diplomatic advances in a number of memorable cases, Ambassador Shearer said. He recounted the use of baseball with Japan in 1939, ping-pong with China in 1971, and baseball again with Cuba in the 1990s, noting that these initiatives prompted mixed results. Hosting the Olympic Games has often provided nations a chance to raise their national profile in the international arena, said Shearer – at least temporarily - pointing to China and Russia and their hosting duties of the 2008 Beijing summer games and the 2014 Sochi winter games. While he cited numerous examples of how countries had amplified the reach of their national brand, he noted that one of the earliest cases was worldwide tour by the Spalding sporting goods company in the late 1880s, intended to promote America’s pastime, baseball.

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For Academic Citation:Sports Diplomacy with Ambassador Shearer.” , May 6, 2014.