Ping pong diplomacy was a popular term in relations with the United States and China years ago and now another term could be added in for North Korea, as former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman took a trip to the Communist nation this week. According to the Associated PressRodman met with North Korea's Kim Jong Un on Thursday, his third day in North Korea, taking in Pyongyang and telling the leader, who is a known basketball and Chicago Bulls fan, "you have a friend for life," a delegation spokesman said. Rodman is the most well-known American to meet with the leader since he took power in December of and Kim is known as a big fan of Rodman when he was playing with the Bulls.
In recent history, we have seen momentous examples of just how powerful a force sports can be when used strategically to repair severed relations amongst nations, villages, and local communities. Immediately upon arrival in one of the most isolated countries in the world, the media frenzy began and tons of criticism followed.
One must remember, cultural diplomacy should not be misconstrued as political posturing, albeit beneficial to relationship building, political mediation, traditionally relayed by way of heads of states, should remain our process and not applauding the antics of ad hoc ambassadors such as Dennis Rodman.
President and ending a year separation between the two countries. Had it not been for the worldwide bonding agent embedded throughout sport culture, the developing U.
The universal language of sports created an opportunity to engage in diplomacy; both governments seized the moment and the rest is history. In , Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, saw an opportunity to employ the popular rugby sport as a tool to unite a largely racially segregated South Africa.
Apartheid had cast a dark cloud over the South African nation for more than four decades, but by using sports as a common uniting mechanism, rugby consequently became an instrument of social change and a beacon of light so desperately needed by a country on the brink of social and political change.
During their visit, the group participated in educational sessions on conflict resolution, nutrition, and disability sports, all of which are valuable skills that each participant will share with their peers in Burma. Through partnerships with non-profit organizations, the State Department stresses the importance of building lasting relationships, expanding beyond the cameras and traditional photo ops that diplomacy exchanges attract.
This also signals an important message to our allies, partners, and all those that seek to destroy freedom and liberty, the message that U.
During early March , U. Embassy in Kabul.
During the meeting, he was given a locally made soccer ball and immediately began putting it to use. At one point he was seen heading a soccer passing technique using the head, for all the non-jocks the soccer ball with a female Afghan soccer team player.
Cowan, who was nineteen years old, had a mop of brown hair that fell to his shoulders and a toothy grin.
This gesture gives assurance that Secretary Kerry understands the connection that resides within sports culture and will continue supporting Sports Diplomacy as his predecessors.
Having the opportunity to travel abroad and interact with different nations along with people of diverse cultures offers the opportunity to learn and diversify our understanding of the world.
Simultaneously, person-to-person contact often confirms or negates stereotypes that are undoubtedly inoculated in the minds of those residing in countries whose leaders choose to draw on ancient fear mongering tactics to control media coverage and the overall message that citizens receive; handicapping any potential at cultural diplomacy engagement.
To achieve success, as traditionally sought after in the sport realm, Sports Diplomacy requires a long-term investment by both parties as was the case in China and South Africa.
Instead, the mission, one with the sole intent of producing a documentary, turned out to be more like a unauthorized and unwarranted withdrawal from an already unstable relationship between North Korea and the United States, a mere distraction and deterrent towards a progressive relationship; instead made for Saturday Night Live SNL fodder.
Dennis Rodman cannot be given responsibility for decades of loaded threats from North Korea; he is however responsible for failing to utilize an influential form of diplomacy that should not be poisoned by the allure of celebrity, but respected for its polarizing gains as a cultural diplomacy asset.
Sports Diplomacy is a powerful international relations builder and must be deployed with caution and the intent to invest in constructing relationships and promoting peace around the globe. It has the power to inspire.
It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.
Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand. He traveled for the Department of State to more than 40 countries and conducted cultural exchange programs in over cities and provinces.
Faulkner is a Business Development professional for a large government defense contractor and he serves as a Senior Advisor to the Humpty Dumpty Institute on Sports Diplomacy.