The Relationship Between Sports and National Identity


Sports are an important part of many people’s lives. They are a source of entertainment, a symbol of distinction and power, and a way to socialize.

Sports can also help define national identity and establish traditions. Athletes’ performances are accompanied by intense emotions, ranging from awe to despair and ecstasy. These feelings are influenced by the “scripts” of the sport subculture that guide athletes’ emotional responses to their performance.

In the process of making sense of their experiences, athletes develop a sense of who they are as individuals and how they are related to others in the team or the stadium. This sense of self and others is a critical element of the formation of national identity.

These patterns of social relations enable and constrain the development of sports. Moreover, they are shaped by global flows of people, technology, finance, images, and ideologies.

Throughout the 20th century, Europe and North America have become dominant in the production of modern sports, both in terms of economics (billion-dollar broadcast rights) and in terms of popular culture (saturated coverage in the media). This has been accomplished, in turn, by the dominance of masculine notions of the content, meaning, control, organization, and ideology of sports.

Sports also contribute to the development of national identities by facilitating the formation of traditions and by encouraging the construction of a sense of national pride and patriotism. This relationship between national identity and sports can be viewed as conservative or liberal, depending on the social context.