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International prestige through ‘sporting success’: an evaluation of the evidence

Brannagan, PMT and Grix, J and Haut, J and van Hilvoorde, I (2018) International prestige through ‘sporting success’: an evaluation of the evidence. European Journal for Sport and Society, 14 (4). pp. 311-326. ISSN 2380-5919

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Abstract

A central argument for public funding of elite sport is the claim that success at the Olympic Games or world championships leads to increasing international prestige for cities and states. While this assumption seems plausible in general, it clearly lacks specification. Given this, we first discuss here several theoretical approaches in order to unpack which forms of prestige can be sought by states in which kind of sports and events. Second, we summarize the (rather limited) state of empirical research on the topic. Third, secondary data, offering possible indicators for sport-induced changes in international prestige, are presented and discussed. The resulting picture reveals that the formula ‘the more success, the more prestige’ is too simple. The paper concludes by suggesting methodological approaches towards a more systematic analysis of states’ use of sport to acquire international prestige.

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