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South Africa’s Engagement in Sports Diplomacy: The Successful Hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup

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Summary This article begins by recognizing the importance of sport in South African history, before turning to South Africa’s vision and strategy, as articulated around and beyond the successful hosting of mega-events, particularly the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first World Cup to be held on the African continent. The article suggests that mega-events are an important stage and priority of a broader and longer-term strategy of enhancing South Africa’s soft power, prestige and visibility. In this context, sport and mega-events are important foreign policy tools and have greatly benefited South Africa, the African continent and the international relations system. Using South Africa as a case study, this article explores the concept of sports diplomacy — that is, the use of sports as an instrument for furthering foreign policy goals, causes or interests — and argues that it is a significant and a rising source of soft power.

Affiliations: 1: School of Social and Political Sciences Rua Almerindo Lessa, 1300-663 Lisbon Portugal


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