Study Tour Day #4 – Sports Diplomacy

If I’m being completely honest, sports diplomacy isn’t really my thing.  I’m sure it’s super interesting, but it just doesn’t grab me as something I want to spend lots of time looking at. But I think that’s sort of the point of a study tour, going outside your comfort zone.

The sports diplomacy section of the tour actually started last night, when we went to the ASEAN Para Games Opening Ceremony.  It was everything you’d expect from an Opening Ceremony, lots of kids running around in bright colours singing and dancing.  I really enjoyed the fact a lot of the performers were from ‘special’ schools (schools for physically and mental disabled children), particularly considering the entire event is about enabling people with disability.

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In terms of actually sports diplomacy, I found the speeches and quotes they had up on projector screens during the event a lot more telling than the actually ceremony.  There was a huge emphasis on the unifying power of sport, particularly within South East Asia, which is still a developing region.  It was also interesting to see the way Singapore portrayed itself as being central to the South East Asian community, a leader of the other, less developed states, perhaps?

Friendship is our greatest strength of all.

Sport pulls individuals together regardless of race, language, or religion.

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Today, continuing with the topic of sports diplomacy we headed to the Singapore Sports Institute for a morning with Scout Bassett, US para-athlete and above knee amputee.  Whilst it was really interesting to hear Scout’s story and the way her love of running helped her overcome a difficult period of her life following her adoption from the orphanage in China where she spent the first seven years of her life and her move to the US, the entire thing just felt a bit…irrelevant.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love a good old inspiration story as much as the next person, but on a study tour where politics and history are supposed to be the focus, I just struggled to see how this was supposed to relate to anything to do with sports diplomacy.  Or Singapore, for that matter, considering Scout is American and spent her entire talk speaking as though we were in the US rather than in Singapore.

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In fact, these past two days have seemed a little bit irrelevant.  Perhaps it’s because we’ve finished so early and had the entire afternoon free, but I think it’s more the fact that everything we’ve been doing has seemed detached from the course as a whole. We’re also supposed to have a networking type event with University of Adelaide alumni, but to be honest I feel far too exhausted to even consider going, so I think I’m just going to curl up in bed and have a good old early night.

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