Thomas Tarrant
AP World History



International Sports and the AP World History Curriculum


In the course of human history, few developments have been as correlated to political, economic, and cultural trends as has the internationalization of sports. Therefore, the topic of international sports warrants a place in the AP World History curriculum. Neither the College Board AP Key Concepts nor Richard Bulliet’s The World and Its Peoples, however, cover the subject sufficiently. According to the AP test creators, the topic deserves mention in one bullet point of one division of one subsection of one Key Concept, relating sports to social and national aspirations. In Bulliet’s textbook, sports are absent entirely, save for a mention relating icons Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan to corporatism and endorsement. Neither source provides AP students with an understanding of how international sports have been integral parts of political, societal, and, to a lesser extent, economic developments in the last century.
On numerous occasions in the last century, political rivalries and causes have been manifested in international sporting events. The primary examples of this are the Olympics held during the Cold War, in which Soviet-United States tensions were played out on the basketball court, the track, and, most famously, the hockey rink. As Bob Mathias, an American competitor in the 1952 said regarding the Soviets, “They were in a real sense the enemy.[1]” While these Cold War events are extremely important, they do not need to be covered in the AP curriculum in much depth, as the conflicts represented by them are straight forward, and most students are familiar with them already. There are other politically relevant contests, however, that ought to be mentioned alongside the issues they represent. The murder of 9 Israeli athletes at the hand of Islamic extremists in the 1972 Munich Olympics represented the political agenda of terrorist organizations and the political conflict between Israel and Palestine. There have also been at play “politics of a different sort, a response to old wounds and long-distant but never-to-be-forgotten antagonisms.[2]” These are observable in contests in several sports between England and past and present dominions of Great Britain, such as Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Aside from U.S. and Soviet actions during the Cold War, the most infamous use of international sports for political machinations was Hitler trying to further his agenda during the 1936 Olympics. He was quoted by Olympic stadium architect Albert Speer as responding to questions about constructing officially-sized playing fields, “No matter. In 1940 the Olympic Games will take place in Tokyo. But thereafter they will take place in Germany for all time to come…and then we will determine the measurements of the athletic field.[3]” Hitler correctly viewed the Olympics as political symbol, where both dominance in the contests and successful hosting represented the strength of the nation. The agenda-undermining victories of African-American runner Jesse Owens infuriated Hitler, as Owens proved that the Aryan athletes were not genetically superior.
International sports have also been integral in societal developments in the last hundred years. Both racial and gender-related issues have been dramatically presented to the public in the athletic arena, particularly in the Olympics. Women’s rights movements can be followed by observing female participation in sporting events. Hassiba Boulmerka, a female Algerian competitor in the 1992 Olympics, said of her involvement, “My victories give me confidence, and they give confidence to my country. I represent my country and all the women in my country who aspire to be athletes.[4]” Though athletics remain dominated by men, women have been gaining footholds in sport as gender relations are progressing. “The participation of women and girls in sport challenges gender stereotypes and discrimination, and can therefore be a vehicle to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. In particular, women in sport leadership can shape attitudes towards women’s capabilities as leaders and decision-makers, especially in traditional male domains.[5]” Perhaps an even more noticeable movement than that of gender equality that was manifested in sport was that of racial equality. In particular, in the late 1900s, several sports, especially rugby, helped attract attention from across the globe to the injustices that were committed during apartheid in South Africa. Protests of athletic contests and emotional victories demonstrated worldwide dissatisfaction with apartheid and played crucial roles in bringing South African blacks suffrage and other rights they had been deprived of by the white minority in power. The American Civil Rights movement was also paralleled by events in international sporting contests. Of all the iconic images in the history of the Olympics, African-American track and field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos solemnly raising their fists in recognition of the Civil Rights movement is one of the most inspirational and influential. The extremely split reactions to the two men’s gesture symbolized the conflicts at the center of the Civil Rights movement.
Economic trends are also evident in international sports. The global sports industry is estimated to be worth between 480 and 620 billion dollars, and is expanding faster than overall GDP[6]. It has only become possible for the industry to reach this status in the last century. Prior to this, international sports would not have been profitable. However, large corporations’ need for new marketing venues and an increase in public leisure time have made sporting events prime capital investments. Between 1980 and 2000, companies have increased spending on advertising during the Olympic games from less than 200 million dollars to over 1.2 billion[7]. This exemplifies the growth of the international marketplace and the increasing power of huge corporations that have the ability to spend such huge sums.
While international sports have seldom been the direct cause of historical trends or events, they have often been exemplary of the concepts behind the trends and events. Therefore, they ought to be discussed in the AP World History curriculum not as events on their own, but as simplified examples of developments that have shaped recent history. The topics discussed in this essay, if utilized by textbook authors, would intrigue students and more effectively leave them with an understanding of the AP World History course.

Footnotes
[1] Editorial. Bob Mathias Interview. AP Central. College Board. Web. <http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repository/ap08_world_hist_frq.pdf>.
[2]Dobre-Laza, Mona. Sports and Politics. Bucharest: Cavallioti, 1997. Web. <http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~rosenl/sports%20Folder/Sport%20and%20Politics%20Kings%20and%20Countries.pdf>.
[3]Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs,. [New York]: Macmillan, 1970. Print. Pg. 70

[4]News Paper Interview. Hassiba Boulmerka Interview. AP Central. College Board. Web. <http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repository/ap08_world_hist_frq.pdf>.
[5]Johanna, Adriaanse. "Women, Gender Equality, and Sport." Women 2000 and Beyond(2007): 3. Un.org. Division for the Advancement of Women Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. Web. 6 May 2012. <http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/public/Women%20and%20Sport.pdf>.
[6]"The Sports Market." A.T. Kearney Global Management Consultants. Web. 06 May 2012. <http://www.atkearney.com/index.php/Publications/the-sports-market.html>.
[7]International Olympic Committee statistics. Fees Paid to the International Olympic Committee for International TV and Radio Broadcast Rights. AP Central. College Board. Web. <http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repository/ap08_world_hist_frq.pdf>.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
1. Editorial. Bob Mathias Interview. AP Central. College Board. Web. <http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repository/ap08_world_hist_frq.pdf>.

2. Dobre-Laza, Mona. Sports and Politics. Bucharest: Cavallioti, 1997. Web. <http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~rosenl/sports%20Folder/Sport%20and%20Politics%20Kings%20and%20Countries.pdf>.

3. Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs,. [New York]: Macmillan, 1970. Print.

4. Hart-Davis, Duff. Hitler's Games: The 1936 Olympics. London: Century, 1986. Print.

5. Johanna, Adriaanse. "Women, Gender Equality, and Sport." Women 2000 and Beyond(2007): 3. Un.org. Division for the Advancement of Women Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. Web. 6 May 2012. <http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/public/Women%20and%20Sport.pdf>.

6. News Paper Interview. Hassiba Boulmerka Interview. AP Central. College Board. Web. <http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repository/ap08_world_hist_frq.pdf>.

7. Bass, Amy. Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2002. Print.

8. "The Sports Market." A.T. Kearney Global Management Consultants. Web. 06 May 2012. <http://www.atkearney.com/index.php/Publications/the-sports-market.html>.

9. [1] International Olympic Committee statistics. Fees Paid to the International Olympic Committee for International TV and Radio Broadcast Rights. AP Central. College Board. Web. <http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repository/ap08_world_hist_frq.pdf>.