HE can still dunk like a butterfly, but in the personally tragic case of former basketball pro Dennis Rodman in North Korea, the embrace of Kim Jong Un and his policies sting like a bee. Rodman is the most recent example of sports diplomacy gone awry. With the Sochi Olympics starting, a new cadre of unpredictable athlete diplomats will likely take the stage.
It is a time-honored tradition to use athletes as diplomats. They are some of the most recognizable global personages whose participation can lead to substantial bilateral benefits. In the 1970s, for example, U.S. President Nixon successfully promoted a team of American pingpong players to open up a dialogue with Mao Zedong’s China.
When sports diplomacy goes wrong, however, it can go very wrong. (read more)