An idea that emerged within international debate and negotiations at the end of the 1990s, particularly in the context of questions concerning sustainable development. Global environmental problems, from climate change to North–South inequality, stimulated policy-makers to ask what conditions might create forms of responsible global governance. Issues of corporate social responsibility, and heightened awareness of fair trade consumerism, are two spheres in which notions of the global public good have been mobilized. Does sport, like education, or health, lie in the sphere of public goods, those goods which a market cannot produce and which are valuable regardless of the dynamics and autonomy of the market? Many governments and sport associations and federations would agree that it does, and the mission statements and objectives of such national governments and international bodies appeal to what might be termed the global public good: yet actions by such bodies appear limited, hypocritical, and constrained. Governments continue to negotiate with provenly corrupt agencies for the right to stage mega-sports events; sport federations and clubs continue to play with equipment made by exploited child labour in the poorest parts of the world. The tension between globally commercialized sport as a private good, and sport (often the Olympics is claimed in this fashion) as a heritage of the whole of humanity and therefore a public good, is embedded in the very structure and existence of international sport. This allows the ‘global public good’ argument to be appropriated by profiteers who speak for the world but work for themselves in the governance and administration of world sport. This is not to decry the argument for or the ideals that fuel the notion of the global public good; but it would be misleading to ignore the way in which the argument can be exploited, and the ideals hijacked.
Subjects: Sport and Leisure.