This talk looks at the symbiotic relationship between organized sport and nationalism. It takes a quick historical look at the institutionalisation of this connection at the turn of the 19th century, the high noon of Western nationalism and, not coincidentally, the moment that modern sport became a formally international business. It tries to explain the foundational role of the Olympics in defining sports persons as national representatives and then examines the Olympic movement’s formalist separation of ‘politics’ and ‘sport’. The talk ends with a case study: the current coming together of sport and politics in contemporary Indian cricket.
Mukul Kesavan teaches history at the Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. He has written a novel about the 1940s, Looking Through Glass, a political tract, Secular Common Sense and a book about Test cricket, Men in White. He writes a current affairs column for The Telegraph, Calcutta.