A structural theory of Olympic governance

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2014-08

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Abstract

This study investigates the suitability of applying international relations theory, specifically international regime theory, to Olympic sport governance. The reliance of the Olympic governance system upon its conception of sport as a politically transcendent source of moral inspiration and the importance of this ideology to political actors can be used to accurately classify it as an international regime or institution. Two outcomes derive from this argument. First, the Olympic regime acknowledges states as free riders and allows them to accrue benefits from association with Olympic sport without bearing any of the costs of providing it. This makes the Olympics an especially appealing target for state political manipulation. Second, the regime is relatively unable to enforce any of its rules for state behavior not because it is weak or lacking in legitimacy, but because its ideological principles make enforcement impossible. The arguments advanced in the first section of the dissertation are supported by empirical case studies in the second. Historical process tracing methods are used to synthesize historical narrative with causal analysis. The decision to ban South Africa at the 1968 Summer Olympics, the 1980 U.S.-led boycott of the Summer Games in Moscow, and the development of the International Convention against Doping in Sport are all instances in which the Olympic movement and international politics intersected, and thus represent useful illustrations of the relationship between the Olympic regime and international politics.

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