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Diplomacy through sport: an effective way to bridge cultures

As posted on Minnpost | By Joan Brzezinski | 08/23/12

In April 1971, the U.S. table tennis team was in Japan for the World Championships and star player Glenn Cowan missed the team bus after practice. The top player on the Chinese team, Zhuang Zedong, waved Cowan onto his team's bus and gave him a ride to the hotel. When the Chinese premier heard about the friendly gesture, he invited the U.S. team to play exhibition matches in his country. The players, along with four officials, two spouses and 10 journalists, became the first American citizens to set foot in China since the Communist takeover in 1949.

More than 40 years later, we were reminded of the power of sport in breaking down barriers at the Olympic Games in London. Every four years, the world comes together on the playing fields, in the pool and at the track for competition. People around the world have shared the privilege of witnessing world records, athletic courage, resilience and dignity in winning and losing. Sport, like no other human endeavor, transcends the differences of culture, language, political systems and values. It can unite us in a way that is personal and respectful.

Myriad examples in London
The London Games were full of inspirational examples, such as Liu Xiang, the Chinese hurdler whose injured ankle gave out for a second straight Games but was helped off the track by a Brit and a Spaniard; South African double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius, who traded race bibs with able-bodied world record holder Kirani James of Grenada after finishing last in his semifinal heat; or Sarah Attar (track) and Wojdan Shaherkhani (Judo), the first female athletes Saudi Arabia had ever allowed to participate in the Olympics.

These athletes, and countless others, will go on to be ambassadors of not only their sport, but also of their country and their people. The promotion of values through sport, known as sport diplomacy, historically has been an effective way to bridge cultures, find common ground and share values. The exchange offers a way for the people of both countries to develop a more friendly relationship on a person-to-person level.

No need to wait four more years
As the glow of the Summer Olympics fade, and we look forward to future sporting events, we must not forget how much more can be done to spread understanding through sports. The world doesn't need to wait four more years to engage in thoughtful and respectful dialogue about culture and values.

Joan Brzezinski is the executive director of the China Center and the Confucius Institute at the University of Minnesota. The university opened the American Cultural Center for Sport, funded by a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State, in Tianjin, China, in March 2012. The center will use the medium of sport as a way to bridge cultures and share U.S. values with the Chinese people. The views presented here are the author's and not necessarily shared by the university.

體育外交:搭建跨文化橋梁 轉載於

Minnpost    作者:瓊·布熱津斯基 2012年8月23日

1971年4月,美國乒乓球代表隊赴日本參加世界錦標賽,明星球員格倫·科恩訓練結束後,錯過了球隊安排的交通巴士。科恩的比賽對手-中國隊的頭號選手莊則棟-向他揮手並邀請他上了中國乒乓球代表隊的交通巴士並送他回到酒店 。當中國總理聽說了這件事後,他熱情邀請美國乒乓球隊到中國進行表演賽。於是美國乒乓球隊、四位美國政府官員、兩對夫婦和十名美國記者,組成了自1949年中國人民共和國成立後第一個踏上中國國土的美國訪問團。

時隔四十年後, 今年的倫敦奧運會依舊提醒我們體育的力量如何突破國家的隔閡。 每四年全世界體育健兒在體育場、游泳館和田徑跑道上競技。 世界各地的人們分享見證打破世界紀錄的時刻、運動員的勇氣、機智和勝與負的尊嚴。 與其他人類活動不同,體育超越了文化、語言、政治制度和價值觀念的差異。它以個人相互尊重的方式把我們團結在一起。

無數的例子在倫敦 今年的倫敦奧運會充滿了鼓舞人心的例子,比如中國跨欄運動員劉翔的腳踝再次受傷並退出比賽,但是他旁邊的英國運動員和西班牙運動員把他抬出了跑道。南非雙腿截肢的田徑選手奧斯卡·皮斯托留斯作為半決賽的最後一名選手與身體健全的世界紀錄保持者格林納達選手卡蘭尼·詹姆斯交換賽衣號碼。另外,來自沙特阿拉伯的女運動員薩拉·阿塔爾(競賽)和沃丹·沙卡哈尼(柔道)參加了奧運會,這是史上前所未有的創舉。