For the curious and interested, an article I wrote on the influence of major sports events on patriotic and nationalistic attitudes has been published online by the International Review for the Sociology of Sport.
The article is entitled, “Influence of hosting a major sports event on patriotic attitudes: The EuroBasket 2013 competition in Slovenia,” and can be accessed by clicking on the link. Readers interested in viewing the full article will need to access is through a library that is subscribed to the journal (or purchase access).
The study involved three survey waves to understand whether staging a major sports event such as the European basketball championship for men, which Slovenia hosted in 2013, increases patriotic or nationalistic attitudes among the general population. Results indicate it does not – although respondents who watched at least some of the event live or on television exhibited higher patriotic, nationalist, and smug sentiments after the tournament than the general population. This is probably a consequence of sports fans being more interested in international competition to begin with rather than a nationalizing impact of live viewing or television broadcasts; correlation is not the same as causation.
The findings of this study disprove popular claims (often made even by governments, including Slovenia’s at the time) that hosting an international sports event increases patriotic feelings among the general population. Effects, if any, are more nuanced and impact a population that is prone and primed to exhibit greater national identity to begin with.
Sports professionals and media reporters, in addition to scholars, should examine this study and its results. Most notably, they should keep in mind the need to provide guarantees that international events will contribute to the economic and/or societal development of the countries hosting them as nationalizing effects (and national unity that might follow it) are negligible.
This is the third published study focusing this basketball tournament. An earlier article just printed in Communication and Sport examined international newspaper coverage of the event. Despite the organizers’ assertion otherwise, it showed that media attention in the event was limited: selected generalist newspapers in twelve foreign countries on five continents dedicated very little attention to the tournament. Only Croatian readers enjoyed substantial coverage before the tournament, whereas most other newspapers dedicated little if any attention to topics beyond their teams’ performances. As my four co-authors and I wrote in the abstract to “International Newspaper Coverage of the 2013 EuroBasket for Men,” “hosting such events are not by default the promotional and economic boon organizers argue and the public believes.”
Finally, an article published in the International Journal of Sport Management and co-authored by Amy Cole examined public perceptions of social impacts of the competition. We found that the tournament increased the perceived value of such events among survey participants. Perceived benefits included world-wide recognition, promotion of active lifestyles, and economic improvements – some of which were disputed in this and later articles on the topic. Perceived negative aspects referred to the cost and inaccessibility of tickets, and to modest international tourist appeal.
Amy worked with me as research assistant at Washington State University. After successfully defending her doctoral dissertation, she is now employed with Resource Development Associates in Oakland.
A fourth article examining some economic aspects of the event is still under review, and a proposal for a comprehensive presentation of key findings related to this event has been submitted to the 2017 Play the Game conference. Hopefully, the late November gathering of academics, professionals, and policy-makers in Eindhoven (The Netherlands) will make a nice setting for the talk.