Qatar’s Human Rights Abuses Show the Underbelly of Sports Diplomacy

Qatar 2022

Qatar is abusing the foreign workers building the 2022 soccer World Cup infrastructure. From the Guardian a few months ago:

Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have died in Qatar in recent weeks and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses, a Guardian investigation has found, raising serious questions about Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup.

This summer, Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, many of them young men who had sudden heart attacks. The investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organisation, during a building binge paving the way for 2022.

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Symbols of London 2012: The Power of Orange

via BBC

via BBC

The biggest defeat on the part of Team Great Britain in the London 2012 Olympics was to the Dutch. More specifically, it was to the color orange. What had been set up as a must-win for Team GB – as it was their home turf and a return to a men’s hockey semifinal match after a quarter of a century – ended up being a sound defeat, with a score of 9-2. The Dutch reveled heartily, the fans and athletes alike dressed head to toe in orange.

Was this color orange the charm that led to the defeat of Team GB? Should the win be chalked up to the Dutch blinding the Team GB athletes with their overpowering orange uniforms?

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NBC Intern Files: Emilie, Part 1: “It still seems surreal”

Emilie Mateu, a USC undergraduate senior, was an NBC intern during the London Olympics this past summer. She shared her experiences on her blog, An American Frog in London. She answered several questions on her amazing experience.

from American Frog in Paris

USC Interns fight on in Bob Costas’s Studio (from Emilie’s blog)

Why did you want to take this internship?

I would say that I was lucky to have been offered this internship! How could I not take it?! As a Broadcast Journalism major, it doesn’t get better than being offered an internship working with NBC for the Olympics. I had just studied abroad in London so I was really excited to be going back to such a fantastic city for such an epic world event. I have always loved the Olympics because it is one of the very few events that peacefully brings together people from all over the world and it still seems surreal that I was able to play a role in bringing the Olympic experience into people’s homes.

Bob Costas at London 2012 (via USA Today)

Bob Costas at London 2012 (via USA Today)

You said in your blog post, “I was called on to do everything from finding and buying 50 identical Sony headphones from three different stores, to picking up the gymnastics Director from the hospital. Andy and I would always joke that our skill sets were being used to their fullest capacities.” What are the weirdest assignments you had and why?
As far as weirdest assignments, buying 50 identical headphones was perhaps one of the most time consuming tasks I had because I had to go to three different electronic stores around London – in traffic – to find all of them. Another memorable moment (though there are many) was on a news shoot with Bob Costas. I got to go out on a lot of fun shoots and actually had to hold an umbrella over Bob Costas once when it was raining…Naturally I was the one getting rained on!

Corporate Sponsors (And Olympic Deals)

Tube Station

The corporate sponsors were inescapable during the Games.

Tube Station

Coca Cola, anyone?

Not just in advertising, but in advertising for advertising — the LOCOG made sure you knew who was paying for all the pink around the city.

Posters

All your sponsors gathered in one place!

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Exploring the London 2012 National Hospitality Houses

This is an expanded version of an article previously posted and written for PDiN Monitor as part of the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy. See the previous version here.

The London 2012 Olympics—what an exciting place to be! Kia and I were able to experience this first hand. We found that some of the most intriguing settings were the National Hospitality Houses scattered throughout the city.

The National Hospitality Houses (NHHs) were pubs, museums, historic buildings, and parks that national Olympic committees rented for the duration of the games to …what? Well, the problem with describing all these houses is that they all had different purposes. Some, such as the USA hospitality house, were not open to the public. Continue reading

CPD Blog: For the Fans

I wrote an essay for the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy blog for an in-depth look at my project.

via the New York Times

via the New York Times

The Olympics are never free of controversy. The competing agendas of Olympic stakeholders lead to clashes–tensions are born and re-awakened. Everything from the problematic omniscience of the International Olympic Committee and NBC’s intense focus on the United States  to the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games’ many bouts with disgruntled Britons  has contributed to an Olympic Games that is, per usual, a mixture of excitement and annoyance.

via ScreenRant.com

via ScreenRant.com

The most constant part of the Olympics is the fans. Not necessarily the intense sports fans; just the people who love the Olympics, who weave their enthusiasm into their everyday lives. The Games will just never want for fans because they appeal to everyone to some degree, whether casual or passionate. Even if you’re not a particular lover of sports, the opening ceremonies promise to entertain (thanks to Danny Boyle bringing in elements such as sheep and Daniel Craig as James Bond ). And perhaps a new sport will catch your eye; if not because of the novelty of a sport like synchronized swimming being showcased on an international scale, then perhaps because of spellbinding Olympic moments with athletes like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. Then there are the people who want to see the bliss of the Olympics in real time and come to the actual place – maybe for the first time or the fifth, but nevertheless with passion.

As a Master’s of Public Diplomacy student at the University of Southern California, these are the people that are of most interest to me. I want to see the people who want to be mired in the exhilaration of the Games. Before entering my degree program, I was already vaguely interested in the Olympics, but through my studies, specifically in cultural diplomacy, I focused my perspective on the Games as an international diplomatic event that has several combating schemas with everyone in the world potentially watching.

via the Economist

via the Economist

To take a closer look at the Olympics as a tool of cultural diplomacy, I am making a documentary focusing on the motivations and desires of these fans. I chose a documentary because of my past experience in production and to be able to tell these fans’ stories in their own words. Through them, I will also analyze the magnetic draw of the Olympics that entices broadcasterscorporate sponsors and host countries to pay billions of dollars merely to be associated with the Games, even if they do not gain from it monetarily. In terms of the visibility, the profit is enormous, even more so now that approximately one third of the world’s population is connected by the Internet; and, this Olympic Games is the most social-media fueled ever  thanks to the popularity of sites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.

This latter element is another part of my project – connecting with fans around the world as they gather either in London or in front of their screens through my blog and other social media. Fans connect in different ways through this media: Tumblr focuses on sharing photos (such as that of the Olympic Torch going through their respective towns); Facebook has a special page for fans to focus on athletes; national broadcasters host Q & A sessions with athletes on Twitter.

Before the Opening Ceremony, I am focusing on the various news stories surrounding the Games: the IOC’s gender regulation, ticket controversies, and the frustration of the fans at the policing of their entertainment, which can range from a restriction on using “London 2012” on anything to banning gifts to the athletes because “free” will compete with corporate sponsors. During the Games, I will go directly to London and meet with the fans – specifically at the London festival, fan-hosted events, and any areas where fans congregate, such as Olympic concerts.

For such a politicized, monetized, and overwrought event, it is inspiring to find sincere anticipation. Of course, every type of event where there are winners and losers has cynicism, but the problems feel more pronounced on an international scale. The fans may be the main audience for all these different agendas and the most irritated by the various mishaps and missteps, but they are also the ones who will be watching no matter what.

Guest Post: Can Sport Really Change The World? (Part II)

Here is Part II of Kelsey Suemnicht’s epic essay. Read Part I here.

The British band “Kinetika Bloco” performs on the Great Wall of China in 2007 to help promote the upcoming Games. / SOURCE: Apple Travel

The Arts / Cultural Diplomacy

My favorite part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Charter is “to encourage and support initiatves blending sport with culture and education.” A slice of culture permeates through the television and into our living rooms during the opening and closing ceremonies, appointed times for the host country to display examples of its performing arts heritage. But the cultural programming surrounding any Olympics Games is best experienced in person.

There is a constant buzz of exhibits and performances that entertain fans of the Games outside of the competitions. In Salt Lake City, dance troupes from around the western United States were chosen to perform at street fairs and celebrations held in the evenings, after competitions had finished for the day. During its Games, Turin held one of Italy’s renowned White Nights or “Notte Bianca”, where a city offers free admission to all of its museums for 24 hours.

Fans walk the street during “La Notte Bianca” (or White Night) of the 2006 Turin Olympics / SOURCE: Sports Illustrated

The Olympic city showcases it’s own art but also plays host to visiting artists from around the world. The cultural diplomacy surrounding the games can be ad hoc, when visiting fans feel compelled to play their music on a street corner or it can also be organized based on significant partnerships. A connection is often forged between the current city and the next city that will host the Games. For example, the “Canada House” was given a prominent location along a main street at the Turin games, providing a forum for Canada to showcase it’s pride as the host of the 2010 Games. Some attendees wouldn’t have otherwise thought to attend the Vancouver Games if they hadn’t first experienced the preview of Canadian hospitality in Turin.

In many ways, the arts provide a stronger experience of a foreign culture in a way that is more potent than any sport could ever be. By incorporating cultural diplomacy within the games, the Olympics provides an excellent example of a well-rounded public diplomacy campaign.

Food / Culinary Diplomacy

Encompassed within the IOC’s mission is the goal of “[ensuring] the regular celebration of the Olympic Games;” this includes obtaining adequate sponsorship funds to keep the Games afloat. It’s convenient to find your favorite snack at a soccer game or to see a familiar bottle of water when you’ve hiked to your stadium seats. But, the local fare is not to be missed (and is often free, offered as a symbol of cultural exchange)!

Swiss Chef, Béda Zingg, served fondue, charcuterie and more at the Swiss House in 2010. SOURCE: Straight.com

Rumor has it, the Beijing Games ran out of refreshments to sell because they underestimated how many visiting fans would want to try their traditional foods. Wandering the streets of Salt Lake City were Hot Chocolate Ambassadors, sponsored by Nestlé, serving free cups of chocolate to fans. At the base of the mountain north of Turin, where all Ski events were held in 2006, the people of Sestriere would serve traditional dishes every evening. Sport unites fans because it’s a common experience publics can share, but what more common of an experience is there than eating?

Transaction

If the period of sustained interaction with foreign publics is only two weeks, it’s important to capitalize on opportunities for attendees to engage with each other. The element of transaction finds root in the IOC’s commitment to “take action in order to strengthen the unity and to protect the independence of the Olympic Movement.” The Olympics excels at providing forums, incentives, and methods for transaction, because it depends on appealing to the international nature and the willingness of the attendees to participate in communal events. My memory of this element occured in two forums at the Olympics I attended: the Pin Trade and “Hospitality Houses”.

The Olympic Pin Trade provide a connection between fans from around the world. Surrounding any Games, an attendee will notice fans trading different pins between each other. Some do it for fun but others come to each Olympics with serious goals to acquire pins new and old. This is an excellent forum in which transaction and exchange can occur, even without two fans needing to speak the same language.

Holland House Party, 2010 SOURCE: Vancouver Magazine

Hospitality Houses are another forum the Olympics provides for transaction between fans. Countries can set up a tent or take over a park for a chance to showcase their country’s hospitality customs. Inside each Hospitality House are many forums in which fans can interact with each other, country representatives, sponsors, and athletes. Above, the notorious Holland House is sponsored by Heineken and offered discounted drinks, lounge areas, and a live Dutch DJ mastering the ceremonies each night at the 2010 Vancouver Games. As was showcased earlier in culinary diplomacy, Switzerland used its House as a restaurant, offering gourmet traditional cuisine to any fan who could make a reservation. The next country to host the Games might offer a preview of what is to come in four years, as was the case for Canada. For the London 2012 Games, the African countries will unite to put on a Hospitality House representing an entire continent for the first time.

Transaction implemented for the goal of transformation is a useful public diplomacy tactic to create experiences that will enable more effective and thorough international relations. The foundation of effective public diplomacy is listening, the most basic transaction. All diplomacy should strive to be transactional in order to establish a trusting international relationship. Harvard University Professor Joeseph Nye discusses transactional and tranformational power in his book, The Powers To Lead:

 “Transformational leaders… use conflict and crisis to raise their followers’ consciousness and transform them. [They] mobilize power for change by appealing to their followers’ higher ideals and moral values…. Transactional leaders rely on various individual interests. [They] create concrete incentives to influence followers’ efforts and set out rules that relate work to rewards” (62-63).

When we view the Olympics as a public diplomacy event, transformation is the goal, similar to the principal goal for foreign exchange programs between universities of different countries. Transformational experiences in regards to a foreign public give citizens concrete experiences as evidence for changing their mind against conflicts with that foreign public. Critical transactions work towards achieving the goal of transformation.

With the Olympics offering an opportunity to employ such productive public diplomacy tactics, could this experience be replicated elsewhere? Or does it only work every two years, because it is such a rare experience? Do to the Olympics capitalize on the experience enough to reap the benefits of such a strong public diplomacy event?

The Olympics prove that publics are willing to interact and connect, but that they need to be provided with the forums in which to do so. I challenge you to seek out the Olympic Experience for yourself; to discover if it may change you or, better yet, inspire you to change the world.

Guest Post: Can Sport Really Change The World? (Part I)

Here is the latest guest post from my Master’s of Public Diplomacy peers — this time from Kelsey Suemnicht, whose in-depth analysis needed to be split in two for your reading pleasure!

The Olympics is an event that makes international relations feel easy and fun. Considering the Olympic Games as an example of a large-scale public diplomacy campaign, I highlight five themes that support its efforts as a catalyst in cross-cultural relations: individual empowerment, regionalism, art, food, and transaction. In the realm of diplomacy, the Olympic dream represents the hope that sport is truly capable of changing the world; the direct influence upon, engagement of, and interaction between fans surrounding the competitions is evidence that it can.

The Olympic rings lit up on the Tower Bridge

The Olympic rings lit up on the Tower Bridge (via Mirror UK)

As David Mandel explained in his post, “Pride and Prejudice 2012,” hosting an Olympic games signifies a proud moment for any city, region, country, population. The strength of any Games comes from the support of the local community and the experiences of attendees within those communities, which I feel is rarely captured on television. It is the experiences in forums on site that exemplify basic public diplomacy and where the cross-cultural relations that support the spirit of the Games most often occur.

My Olympic experience took place in two locations that are significant to my own narrative. My cousins’ hometown of Park City was headquarters for all ski and snowboard events for the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. It was an influential experience to act as the host country and to watch the best atheletes in the world ski the same runs on which I had learned how to crash and fly as a child. The 2006 Torino games coincided with my junior year of college when I chose to study political science and the Italian language abroad in Bologna and Rome. The opportunity to view the Olympics through the eyes of a new culture was a fundamental experience in my pursuit of public diplomacy as a career.

When we tune in to the Olympics on television, we’re privvy to exclusive interviews, sweeping photography of the host city, and the back-to-back coverage of fast-paced competitions. But the constantly-promoted “Olympic Spirit” can be accessed at its crux in the midst of the Games as an attendee. What happens off-camera, on your way to the stadium, as one leaves an arena, and in the outer-lying towns? The essence of public diplomacy.

Jesse Owens, 1935

Jesse Owens, 1935

Individual Empowerment / Citizen Diplomacy

Individual empowerment is a cornerstone of the Olympic Charter: ”The role of the International Olympic Committee is to act against any form of discrimination,…[implement] equality between women and men,…and to provide for the social and professional futures of athletes.” The Olympics provides citizens an opportunity to participate as diplomatic actors on behalf of their home countries. The most visible example of this theme is celebrity diplomats. A legendary athlete can change a sport simply by being themselves, exhibited by the examples of Jesse OwensBonnie Blair, and Wayne Gretzky. A famous athlete can also influence the image of their home country as do Usain BoltMario Balotelli, or Michelle Kwan.

My Mom and I experienced a more-nuanced form of citizen diplomacy at the first Ski Jumping competition in Park City, Utah. As citizens of the host country for the 2002 Games, we decided to take it upon ourselves to cheer for any international athletes that didn’t seem to have a fan base. Our favorite immediately became the least supported athlete, a Ski-Jumper from Kazakhstan. We yelled our hearts out to cheer him on, not wanting him to feel homesick or unsupported. I will always harbor good feelings for people from Kazakhstan because I recall the bravery that athlete embraced, to show up to compete even though Ski Jumping was a lesser-known sport and his family could not afford to accompany him. This was an athlete that would not be featured on television and would probably not even place within the top ten. His courage reminded me that sport transcends national identities and recalls the common bonds we share as humans.

In Turin, my Dad and I found ourselves with tickets to a Curling match. We had no idea how to cheer for the sport but we decided to attend in an effort to uphold the Olympic Spirit. I still do not know the rules of Curling but we departed with a wonderful notion of how to tell Nordic vs. Scandinavian flags from each other, given to us by acquaintances made in the stands. By the end of the event, we also had the Swedish national anthem, “Du gamla, Du fria”, memorized thanks to our new friends, seven of Sweden’s most passionate Curling fans. For fans of the Olympics, sometimes the Games don’t matter as much as the lasting friendships made and the new knowledge gained.

Flag Country Governance Capital Population
Official Scandinavian countries
demark flag Denmark Kingdom Copenhagen 5,519,287
norway flag Norway Independence 1905 Oslo 4,836,183
sweden flag Sweden Kingdom Stockholm 9,336,487
The additional Nordic nations
finland flag Finland Independence 1917 Helsinki 5,349,829
iceland flag Iceland Independence 1944* Reykjavík 319,756
Nordic autonomous regions
faroe islands flags Faroe Islands Self-governance 1948 Tórshavn 49,006
greenland flag Greenland Self-governance 1979 Nuuk 57,600
åland flag Åland Islands Autonomous province 1920* Mariehamn 27,456

(via Lost in Stockholm)

Regionalism

The Olympics is an event that inspires many individuals to unite in a common quest for excellence in sportmanship and teamwork. One fascinating concept I experienced as a fan and attendee of two games is the emergence of regional identities. The IOC seeks to upholds this element in its mission “to cooperate…in the endeavour to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace.”

via BBC

I will never forget the friendly Canadian I asked for directions in Turin who, when I thanked him, he replied, “always happy to help a fellow North American!” When I would meet a fan from Mexico, I would exclaim, “oh! I’m from California,” because it felt as if I was meeting a long-lost cousin. When you’re across the world from home, at a global event, it’s not uncommon to strike up bonds with your neighbors that you wouldn’t have previously considered in a different context.  As American University Professor Robert Pastor promotes in his book The North American Idea, “transnational problems cannot be solved unilaterally… The opening of each country to each other and the world represents an enhancement of rights not their restriction. Sometimes sovereignty can be defended better by eliminating barriers and not raising them, by working closely with each other not by distancing ourselves” (6-14).

The opportunity that the Olympics presents for regionalism to influence global affairs, and for public diplomacy to promote it should not be taken lightly.

Read Part II of Kelsey’s piece here.

We Support the Olympics (So You Should Buy Our Stuff!!)

Olympic Sponsors

Olympic Sponsors

I don’t have cable during the school year, so I have been taking advantage of having it this summer by having the T.V. on constantly. No, I’m serious—it’s on right now. This means that I have been bombarded with Olympics-themed commercials. The companies that put out these commercials have been supporting the USOC for decades in some cases, and Tide, MasterCard, McDonalds, et al are a big part of the reason there are three state-of-the-art training centers here and so many American athletes heading to London in a few weeks. So why not put up an advertising campaign highlighting your role in the biggest sports event of the year? Here are a few of my favorites!

Okay, so I couldn’t pick one of the Visa Go World commercials because I love them all. First, props to Visa for celebrating ALL athletes—that makes me really happy! Second, you really have to work at messing up a campaign that uses Morgan Freemans’ voice. It’s also really clever how each commercial is in shades of gold. There is an entire Visa Go Olympics YouTube channel (Visa Global Cheer) with all of the commercials.

Visa-Cheer-Facebook-app

Visa Cheer Facebook app

I would recommend watching Lopez Lomong’s commercial, it is pure genius how they packed so much emotion into 30 seconds. The team behind this campaign (which is a whole social media event, complete with a Twitter hashtag #GoWorld) deserves a medal of their own. It even makes me feel a little better about the balance on my Visa credit card. Well, not really… but, you know.

Okay, who doesn’t love commercials that highlight not the athletes but their moms? It’s sweet. After a little YouTube hopping, I realized this was a trend for P&G, because they put out a similar set of commercials for the Winter 2010 Olympics. Oh, and also… emphasis on world and not USA once again!

And speaking of P&G, Tide (which falls under their umbrella) has a commercial with a catchy little line “in the Olympic Games, it’s not the color you go home with that matters, it’s the colors you came in.” I doubt Tide has much issue with where Team USA’s uniforms come from, so long as those uniforms are being washed with its detergent!

There are hundreds of other examples out there, such as Cover Girl’s Olympic commercials that highlights the women of Team USA (in their new Olmypics makeup line). There are plenty that are incredibly nationalistic (NBC’s comes to mind). Let us know your favorite/least favorite/if you think I should stop watching so much T.V.

And now that I have blatantly promoted these companies, I expect some sort of compensation. Or a free ticket to an event (gymnastics?!?) at the very least. Before your judge me, I challenge you to watch these and not feel the tiniest bit moved.

The “First” “Social Olympics”

This year is the “Social Olympics.” No, it doesn’t mean the Olympic athletes suddenly get together and act like college students as they get to know each other in their dorm-like habitats. They already do something of the sort already. And in years past, the Olympics has been social, to a certain extent — Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr were all invented before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, a lot has changed with social media in that time. We are more connected than ever, as shown in these infographics comparing past Olympics:

And all that is change is being utilized to the point that the already ubiquitous Olympics will become inescapable:

Many more people now have smartphones, so they can react immediately to something they have seen in a stadium, arena, court, pool, ring or velodrome. Clearly the London Games will be tweeted, tagged, liked, blogged, mashed and rehashed like no previous Olympics.

The BBC is a following a strategy in particular that will keep you glued to a screen during all times of the day:

“One, ten, four” was introduced in early 2011 to simplify and bring greater discipline to the BBC’s online strategy which, in preceding years, had seen the organization develop 400 different web sites. Its aim was to deliver “connected storytelling” through the delivery of one service (the BBC) with ten products (including TV, News, Weather and Sport) across four screens–mobile, tablets, PCs and connected TVs.

Facebook is working with the IOC to expand their social media outreach, because you really can’t ignore Facebook, especially since they’ve added 800 million people to the site since the last Summer Olympics in 2008. They have a special page collecting all Olympic “footage” that covers everything from specific Olympic pages to athletes’ updates.  NBC is also pairing up with Facebook so your friends will know what you are watching (even if they really don’t care). And the Washington Post is using the Socialcam app to create “London Eyes” all over the Olympic Games through their reporters and specific fan uploaded content as well.

Of course, in creating this project, I did a lot of outreach with Tumblr and blogs and Twitter, trying to find fans all around. With Twitter and Goole Hangout, I also found NBC reaching out to fans with specially allotted times with the athletes, like their #AskMegan initiative a couple weeks ago with Megan Rapinoe from the US Women’s Soccer Team.

Of course, the main reason this is the “first” social Olympics is the restrictions and guidelines put in place with social media in mind.

All this sharing and connecting has also created some new headaches. There is grumbling, for instance, about the restrictions that the organizers of the Games have imposed on this most freewheeling of media formats.

Local Olympic organizing committees always go to great lengths to protect sponsors, who sometimes shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to associate their brands with the Games, from so-called ambush marketing by companies that try to get free rides. Sometimes, as in the case of the London Games, special legislation is enacted.

This time, the guidelines include provisions for social media, detailing what marketers may and may not do. Among the banned actions are the use of certain word combinations in social media content: Nonsponsors have been warned not to try putting, say, “twenty-twelve” and “gold” in the same tweet.

Athletes and spectators face restrictions, too. Neither will be permitted to post video footage of sporting events to online forums. Participants are allowed to post on blogs or Twitter, but the postings must be in a “first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist,” the guidelines state.

“They must not report on competition or comment on the activities of other participants or accredited persons, or disclose any information which is confidential or private in relation to any other person or organization,” the rules say.