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Keys%20Rise%20of%20International%20Sport

Keys%20Rise%20of%20International%20Sport - The Rise of...

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Unformatted text preview: The Rise of International Sports Organizations As the nineteenth century’sburst of nationalism and imperialism pushed the world toward an integrated system of nation-states, it also spawned new forms of internationalism. The half-century before World War I saw a striking proliferation of international organizations, both private and . governmental, devoted to endeavors as diverse as standardizing weights and'measures, promoting a universal language, humanizing the condi— tions of war, and safeguarding public health. In the 18905 a new form of organization appeared, whose mission in some senses touched on all of these fields: the international sport organization. By 1914 about a dozen such groups had been formed to regulate individual sports and interna- tional competitions. As their power and influence grew, they would come, to play a critical role in shaping the “imaginary world” of global- sport. These bodies, as structures that disseminated ideas and practices to virtually every country aspiring to membership in international soc1— ety, helped to channel and shape the explosion of nationalist movements in the twentieth century. _ As was true of the international system more generally, the wdrld of sport was fundamentally a European creation. Thoughclaiming universal relevance, international sport was run at the outset almost eX-cluswely by white, Christian, aristOcratic or upper-middle—class European men. Like the international political system, the sport system was framed as a means of making the world more humane, orderly, and peaceful. Idealistic 1n- ternationalism, a movement that sought to promote peace through in- - ternational contact, was a powerful current in the period when the first international sports organizations were founded, and the imprint of 40 — The Rise of International Sports Organizations 41 their birth in the milieu of peaceful internationalism is visible in these organizations’ continued adherence to the idea that sport promotes peace as a central element in their claims to legitimacy. International nongovernmental organizations, as sociologistsJohn Boli and George Thomas have suggested, “seek, in a general sense, to spread ‘progress’ throughout the world: to encourage safer and more efficient technical systems, more powerful knowledge structures, better care of the body, friendly competition and fair play.” Sport organizations fit clearly within these parameters, with one major exception. While most interna— tional nongovernmental organizations are characterized by strong norms of open membership and dem0cratic decision making, sport organiza- tions are typically governed aut0cratically, with selfTappointed member- ships and often with cloS‘ed voting procedures.l This difference, rooted in ‘ the historical circumstances of their foundings, would come to have pro— . found implications for the world of sport. International organizations were central to the creation of a global sport culture. Themselves global bodies, they were instrumental in en— dowing sport with a cultural autonomy separate from local and national contexts—or, to put it more simply, in allowing the same games to be played all over the world. As sociologist Norbert Elias has explained: “At the level of traditional local outdoor contests without hard and fast rules, the game and the players were still largely identical. An im- promptu move, the whim of a player which pleased the others, might al— ter the traditional pattern of the game. The higher organizational level of a regulating and supervising club endowed the game with a measure of autonomy in relation to the players. And that autonomy grew as super~ visory agencies at a higher level of integration took over the effective control of the game-’72 Sports never became entirely divorced from the contexts in which they were played or from the influence of the athletes who played them. Local cultures continued to interpret the meaning and significance of games in different ways, and, games continued to be played with local styles and inflections. Nevertheless, as Elias points out, _ the relative autonomy of a sport—the degree to which its form and con- tent were determined outside the local context—increased as the power of national and internationalfederations grew. ‘ Despite the formative role these organizations played in disseminating and shaping global sport, their role in global affairs, like the role of in- ternational organizations .more generally, is little understood.3 Today 42 Globalizing Sport ___________—__________________‘___ sport organizations are global behemoths, with control over worldwide events that generate billions of dollars in revenue and that capture the attention and imagination of billions of people. It is a power undreamed of by the men who, a century ago, founded the tiny organizations that for years foundered on the edge of obscurity and bankruptcy During, the interwar years these organizations transformed themselves from ”mar— ginal, unstable groups into powerful global bodies, asserting sharp con— trol over the shaping of an international sport regime. Weak and poorly organized at the outset, sport organizations in the long term demon- strated greater longevity and more widespread appeal than many similar organizations founded before World War 1.4 By the 19305 a sea change in the international sport world was under way. With the success of the 1932 Games in Los Angeles, the 10C found itself in charge of a festival that had grown from a rather marginal cu- riosity to an event of great public, commercial, and diplomatic signifi- cance. This position gave the IOC greater leverage in its dealings with other sports organizations and with national governments, even while leaving it increasingly susceptible to the vicissitudes of international politics. The Olympics also raised the profile of the various sports on its program, and the IOC’s reliance on international sport federations to set the technical regulations of the Games enhanced the power and legiti- macy of these federations. Other events, most notably the World Cup- staged by the international soccer federation beginning in 1930, gener— ated sizable revenues from gate receipts and later from new sources like radio broadcasting, producing‘a measure of financial stability for some international federations that allowed them to develOp a permanent and salaried bureaucratic apparatus. Whereas previously such federations had been weak associations in which national bodies retained primary control over domestic affairs, the balance of power now beganto shift in favor of a centralized administration. ‘ , ‘ \ When sport surged in popularity after WorldWar I, these organiza- tions were able to channel the internationaldimension of the sport craze to their advantage. How they did so can be seen by examining the devel- opment of the. two most significant sport organizations; .the IOC, which claimed authority over theworld’s largest amateur sport festival, and the Federation internationale de football assOciation (FIEA), the interna- tional federation that oversaw the world’s most popular team sport, As- sociation football (known in the United States as soccer).5‘Although the The Rise of International Sports Organizations 43 two represent divergent trends in the 19205 and 1930s—the IOC ad— hered tightly to amateurism even as EIEA moved to embrace profession- alism, often bringing the two into conflict—their development followed similar patterns. Each succeeded in establishing monopolistic control over its sphere of interest, allowing it to constrict the parameters of sporting life around a narrowly defined conception of sport. Initially c0mposed only of European and North American members, each organi- zation had universalist pretensions and pursued global expansion as a way to achieve this end. Each came to center its membership on the principle of nationalism and provided a major forum for the expression of ‘ nationalism? on a global stage. Each channeled that nationalism in in— ternationalist directions, shaping an emerging conception of a global Community that claimed to transcend race, class, and national divisions. Sport Organizations before World War I I Bureaucratization and standardization were preconditions for the nation— alization of modern sport, because for a sport to be truly national, it had to be played under the same rules throughout the country Efforts to create a single, nationwide set of rules were spurred by improvements in commu— . nication and transportation, especially the railroad, that made it possible for teams and individuals from different regions to compete against one another. The quantitative focus of modern sport also furthered the move— ment for standardization because records set at different times and places could be compared if they had been made under uniform conditions. Bu— reaucratization and standardization naturally occurred first in England, the birthplace of modern sport. The twin processes channeled the vast spectrum of games that centered on the kicking of balls, for example, into two distinct sports—rugby and soccer—whose rules were codified in the 18605 by national organizations created for that purpose. Such national organizations usually clairned jurisdiction over 1a single sport, with the right to set standard rules and eligibility requirements. (In most cases, eligibility rules meant enforcing the moral code of amateurism.) In Britain, for example, the Football Association was formed in 1863, the _ Rugby Football Union in 1871, and the Amateur Athletic Association in 1880. The decades before World War I saw a similar flowering of organiza- tions in Europe. In Germany between 1883 and 1902 associations were or- ‘ ganized for rowing, bicycling, track and field, soccer, and tennis.6 ‘44 Globalizing Sport Such organizations often began by controlling a few clubs in one local- ity and then gradually expanded their powers over other clubs and other areas, often struggling against rival authorities, until they became truly national bodies with monopolistic or near-monopolistic control over a single sport or a group of related sports. Their spheres of competence ex— panded to include organizing competitions and championships, certify- ing the validity of records and results, disseminating information, and creating increasingly detailed standards to ensure uniformity When the English Football Association was formed in 1863, for example, it had only ten member clubs and was one of many associations that had codi— fied a set of rules. During the next fifteen years, it established a position as the leading national soccer body, gaining a permanent office, a salaried secretary, and one thousand members. In addition to establishing a uni- form set of rules and eligibility requirements, it organized national championships, beginning in 1871 with the, Challenge Cup.7 Eventually national multisport unions acting as umbrella organizations for bodies governing individual sports were formed. Like the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States (AAU), these organizations often organized international meets and enforced amateur standards. ‘ In similar fashion the growth of international competitions spurred the establishment of international sport federations. The increasing fre- quency and growing prestige attached to these meets created. pressures for guidelines on rules, refereeing, and eligibility. The impetus for estab— lishing federations often came from European countries, whose proxim— ity to one another .and late entry into sport made international authority more desirable than it was for the pioneers, Britain and the United States. Britain’s national associations proved reluctant to initiate or to en- courage the formation of international authorities in the sports they had invented or standardized. FIFA, for example, which governed Britain’s most popular sport, was formed in 1904 at French initiative, without British support; before 1946 it received only intermittent British partici- pation. It was often the leaders of European national associations who took the lead in forming international federations, and because these men were naturally intent on maintaining their prerogatives within their national fiefdoms, these. federations were initially quite-weak. At first ' they had no powers over the domestic affairs of the national bodies that comprised them, many Of which continued to maintain their. own rules and standards for domestic matches. Indeed, national: associations saw The Rise of International Sports, Organizations 45 international federations as a way to protect and enhance their own - powers against rival organizations that might arise in their own coun- tries. One of the major functions of the international federations, then, was to support each national association’s monopoly position over the sport in question in its country. International federations also formed be- , fore many countries had created national organizations, so that it was of- ten international bodies that. prompted the formation of domestic ones.8 By 1914 fourteen international federationshad sprung up, governing popular sports with significant levels of international competitions, in- cluding rowing, skating, cycling, soccer, weight lifting, swimming, ten- nis, and track and field. In the interwar period additional federations for archery, field hockey, skiing, canoeing, basketball, and equestrian sports were formed. 9 At first these organizations wielded limited authority and rested on precarious financial bases. 10 Only a few developed into signif- icantly powerful institutions before 1945, but all succeeded' in imposing greater standardization of rules and norms and in facilitating the inter- nationalization of sport. Federations Were relatively slow to create world championships, in 'part because the Olympic Games offered many sports the equivalent of a championship and in part because costs were prohibitively high; long- distance travel was still time-consuming and expensive. World champi- onships nevertheless slowly became a part of the sport landscape, appearing in ice skating in 1896, shooting in 1897, tennis in 1900, gym— nastics in 1903, fencing and cycling in 1921, bobsleigh and ice hockey in 1924, wrestling in 1929, soccer in 1930, and skiing in 1937. In many cases these were primarily, if not exclusively, European events, and it was only gradually that their geographic reach came to justify the ‘world” label Other major international competitions, staged on a regular basis but not under the auspices of the federations, were begun in these years, such as the enormously popular Tour de-France, the cycling race created by the French sport newspaper L’Auto in 1903.11 l The International Olympic Cbmmittee The IOC, as we have seen, was founded in 1894 by Pierre de Coubertin to oversee the Vstaging of a modern quadrennial Olympic festival. At the ‘ outset its membership was handpicked by Coubertin. As he noted, he deliberately chose “almost exclusively absentee members,” mostly aris- 46 Globalizing Sport tocrats and directors, of educational institutions who would lend the committee credibility while leaving him a free hand in its direction. He was also careful, however, to cement the international character of the \ organization by choosing men from eleven countries.12 The committee was nevertheless overwhelmingly European Before World War I it in- cluded only a handful .of representatives from North and South America . and one each from New Zealand, Australia Japan, Turkey, Egypt and ‘ South Africa.13 Its official languages were French and English, and it re- quired its members to speak one or both of these languages. Its annual decision—making sessions (the plenary meetings of members) were al- most invariably held in Europe, further discouraging the participation of non-European members, who had to pay their own travel and hotel expenses. ‘ ‘ The IOC was undemocratic as well as Eurocentric. In a move that would have lasting repercussions Coubertin chose to structure the IOC not along the lines of nineteenth-century middle-class sport “associations,” which were based on open admittance and governed by democratically elected committees, but instead on the model of an eighteenth-century aristo- cratic, self-appointed “club”: the Henley Royal Regatta. Members were co-opted for life terms and were supposed to represent the IOC to their countries, rather than being representatives of their countries to the IOC. 14 First as general secretary and then as president, Coubertin had autocratic powers and ran the committee almost single-handedly, with the advice of an inner circle of Olympic enthusiasts, including William Sloane of the Uni-ted States, Jiri Guth—Jarkovsky of Austria-Hungary, and ‘Victor Balck of Sweden.15 The high proportion of aristocrats on the com- mittee would gradually decline, but it' would for decades cominue to be heavily dominated by rich European men. ' In its structure the committee was not based on‘equality of members. It did not (and still does not) adhere to a one- country, one-vote system nor are countries that participate in the Olympics entitled to de Jure rep- resentation: some countries had two or even three representatives on the IOC, while others had none. Because selection was made on the basis of personal connections among IOC members, rather than by national or- ganizations Selecting representatives to send to the COmmittee, the orga— ' nization had a very clubby, “old-boy” character. It had no black members until 1963 and no women in its ranks until 1981.15 i ‘ One of the major focuses of ‘IOC efforts in the early years was to en— F The Rise of International Sports Organizations 47 courage standardization of rules. Coubertin lamented in 1898 that “every country has its own rules” and “discord reigns supreme from one end to the other” in the world of sport.17 At a '1901 IOC meeting some members pressed for internationally binding rules. The AAU, in anticipation of or- ganizing the 1904 St, Louis Games, proposed that the IOC reach an agree- ment on standard rules with international sport federations, and in 1902 the IOC sent a questionnaire on the matter to all national and interna— tional federations involved. The small number of replies received sug— gested that international federations were as yet too weak to impose uniform standards. 18 At a 1905 IOC meeting COubertin again advocated the standardization of rules for international competitions, but without "practical effect. 19 Thus, for lack of a better alternative, technical regula- tions at the early Olympics were left largely in the hands of the local 0r— ' ganizers, which led to frequent disputes between. host and Visitors.20 The early Olympic Games were rather haphazard and unremarkable affairs. The first, held in Athens in 1896, was poorly advertised, attracted relatively few athletes, and garnered little notice in the European press?-l At the 1930 Berlin Congress of the International Olympic Committee, a well- connected group of aristocrats and the wealthy; from left. Reichstag President Paul Lobe, German IOC member Theodor Lewald, IOC President Count Henri de Baillet-Latour, and Interior MinisterJosef Wirth Source: © Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin. 48 Globalizing Sport ____________________________ The 1900 Games in Paris and the 1904 Games in St. Louis were mere sideshows to the world’s fairs they were staged alongside. Some of the athletes did not even know they were participating in the Olympics.22 The relative ins'ignificance of the early Olympic Games was a reflection of sports marginal status in much of Europe Where sport was still often viewed With suspicion as the English disease ” As Coubertin remarked, it was difficult to attract spectators to sporting events, and most politi- cians sawsport as “something quite unimportant, only to be appreciated to a minor degree like. any ot...
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