Workshop — Sport Mega-Events as Hubs for InterAsian Interactions

WORKSHOP DIRECTORS:

Susan Brownell
Professor, Anthropology & Archaeology, University of Missouri-St. Louis
sbrownell@umsl.edu

Gwang Ok
Professor, Physical Education, Chungbuk National University, Republic of Korea
gwangok47@gmail.com

CALL FOR WORKSHOP PAPERS:

Between 2018 and 2022, three consecutive Olympics will take place in East Asia: the PyeongChang Winter Olympics (2018), Tokyo Summer Olympics (2020), and Beijing-Zhangjiakou Winter Olympics (2022). In the 122-year history of the Olympic Games, this will be the first time that multiple installments will be held consecutively in one world region outside the cultural West. Further, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held in Qatar, only the second hosting of this event in Asia (after the 2002 Japan/Korea contest). The Asian Games are the world’s largest regional games, including many more sports disciplines than the Olympic Games and nearly as many athletes. After the 2018 games in Jakarta, the next two will be in East Asia: Hangzhou (2022) and Nagoya (2026). Pundits have wondered whether the geographic shift of mega-events indicates the decline of the West and the rise of Asia. Will the Asian events strengthen intra-regional solidarity, or do Asian actors primarily strive to form relationships with Western counterparts? Does East Asia occupy a discrete role in Asia as a whole?

Scholars have argued that global mega-events (Olympic Games, FIFA Soccer World Cups, World Expos) operate as hubs of global flows of capital, people, knowledge, and technology, and perform important ritual and symbolic functions. However, this general insight remains to be researched at a more concrete level. Furthermore, although there has been a growing body of literature on sports, Olympic Games, and Asian Games in Asia in recent years, few scholars have specifically focused on the way in which sports and sport mega-events serve as a platform for elite networking and the strengthening of regional social and cultural interconnections. Stefan Huebner’s focus on mega-events in the formation of Asian identity in Pan-Asian Sports and the Emergence of Modern Asia, 1913-1974 (2016) pursued what is still a novel approach to understanding the construction of “Asia.” As he documented there, official efforts to craft a pan-Asian identity run into countercurrents: sporting events are just as likely to inflame nationalist rivalries, and different sporting legacies of colonialism and imperialism mark off different sub-regional identities (E.g., cricket in South Asia, baseball in East Asia) and different preferences for mega-events (E.g. India’s hosting of the 2010 Commonwealth Games and South Asian hosting of the Cricket World Cup versus the East Asian hosting of Olympic Games or Qatar’s hosting of the Soccer World Cup). Further, “national” sports such as kabbadi (India), wushu (China), or karate (Japan) serve to reinforce national identities and compete with each other for inclusion in the mega-event programs.

The proposed panel will be innovative in that it will focus on the question of whether mega-events strengthen regional Asian networks that serve as an infrastructure facilitating the emergence of a stronger Asian identity – which might not yet be evident. It will analyze how these mega-events form a multi-layered system of “hard” and “soft” infrastructures including construction mega-projects, technology, and finance, but also the “transfer of knowledge” (the organized process by which know-how is transferred from one event to the next), cultural borrowing, social networking, and the sharing of emotions. It will provide an open-ended forum for identifying all of the different types of connections that Asian sport mega-events generate. At the same time, it will identify the obstacles that might obstruct potential connections, such as nationalist sentiments, legal limits on the mobility of people and capital, wealth disparities between nations and social classes, or hierarchies within elites and sport organizations. By pulling together a picture of the networks that historically coalesced around Asian sport mega-events – and are now coalescing around the upcoming events – this panel will produce a larger picture of globalization and Asia’s position in it.