Sports, a Key Player in Political Ball-game

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By Athena Yenko | May 13, 2014 1:30 PM EST

On May 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin scored 11 times (6 goals and 5 assists) in an exhibition hockey game in Sochi.  A moment of silence was dedicated to those pro-Russian separatists who were killed during the day as the result of the Ukraine-Crimea crisis before the game started.

Sports and politics seemed completely two different entities. However, these two are inseparable.

As how two-time Walkley Award winner and SMH sports journalist Malcolm Knox said in an interview: "sport can be a test of fundamental human values: courage, faith, strength of spirit, much more. What makes it powerful is that it sets up an arena, or a laboratory, in which we can see these values tested before our eyes." The same goes for politics.

Ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd plays football. During his time as foreign minister, Mr Rudd played football with refugees in Perth for the Boao Forum for Asia business conference in 2011.

"The good thing about what Edmund Rice is doing is bringing together all these kids who have come to Australia as refugees and what they are doing with them is teaching them team skills, teaching them to love an Australian game and above all that to be made to feel welcome and part of the Australian family. These kids will be leaders in the Australian community in the future and this will be part of their formation."

Current Prime Minister Tony Abbott has background in boxing. As a Rhodes Scholar at Queen's College at Oxford, he was convinced to take up boxing over a drinking spree with friends. The result? He retired undefeated after four heavyweight fights.

Former Prime Minister John Howard bowls during a visit to an Australian medical camp, following an earthquake in Pakistan in 2005. Volunteers and military were delighted despite Mr Howard sucking at sports.

U.S. President Barrack Obama keeps playing basketball despite former NBA Commissioner David Stern saying "he's not that good" for being a lefty and going "the same way every time."

Mao Zedong, Chinese Communist revolutionary and the founding father of the People's Republic of China, loves PingPong.

North Korea's Kim Jong Il rocks in golf. He was able to card 38 under a single round at Pyongyang Golf Course.

Rumour had it that Cuban president Fidel Castro tried out for the New York Yankees in 1949 but was not able to made it.

Sports had been a significant player in major political history.

In 1970, the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) expelled South Africa from the Olympic Movement, following its exclusion in the Olympic Games of 1964 and 1968. The expulsion was done as protest to South Africa's apartheid system. Many countries banned South Africa around that time. By 1992, IOC re-included South Africa in time for the 1992 Olympic Games. Other governments followed suits and lifted sanctions against South Africa.

Politicians, diplomats and the United Nations could not bridge the 'gap' between "two Chinas". But the Olympic Movement had them participated in the Olympics.

During the 1998 Olympic Games in Seoul, the IOC played as negotiator to the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK). The negotiation resulted in the avoidance of fourth successive boycott of the Games (following boycotts in Montreal (1976), Moscow (1980), and Los Angeles (1984). 

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