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GSM Live Insights: Now & Then - How Sport Has Transformed

Olympic Game Years mural on stairs

GSM Live Insights: Now & Then - How Sport Has Transformed

It has been over a year since the world seemingly came to a halt in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this time, we have witnessed major social transformations that have been exemplified in and perpetuated by sport. Panelists from our previous GSM Live: Around the World – COVID-19 & Sport, join us again to discuss what we wish we knew then and what we know now.

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“A phrase that I’ve started to use is ‘the emergence of a new global geopolitical economy of sport.'”

Simon Chadwick introduced the concept of a “reset” of global sport to GSM last year. To him, the last year hasn’t demonstrated so much of a reset as an acceleration and amplification in social and economic disparities. Sport hasn’t been immune from this, but the global reckoning with injustice and inequality is a reason to be optimistic about the future.

 “The increasing role of private equity investment in clubs and in leagues…I happen to think that is a force for good.”

Steve Ross is a professor of law and the executive director of the Penn State Center for the Study of Sports in Society. He believes that even though there are plenty of things we wish we knew now, the challenges in sport were necessary for identifying major problems. Arguably, they have even made room for new opportunities for innovation in sport, especially in an economic sense. 

“There is a high level of anxiousness from the [South African] community to get back to sport.”

Ilhaam Groenewald is the Chief Director of Maties Sport at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. She notes that as sport is returning there is still a long way to go, but the vaccine is key in bringing people back together. It’s going to take not only patience, but also committed action from local, national, and global leaders. 


“There was this light shining on the disparities that we have in our own country.”

Natalie Welch is a faculty athletics representative and professor at Linfield University, and a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. She says that even though the last year has been incredibly difficult, it has provided much needed light on the experiences of underrepresented and underserved populations like Indigenous communities. There is reason to be optimistic whether that’s because of something like the Washington Football Team name change, local vaccination initiatives, or the massive global movements in support of racial and social justice.


“Sport is important to our lives, but is it more important than life itself?”

Lori Okimura is an executive board member for Angel City Sports and a former chairman for USA Volleyball. She believes that the last year has shown how important sport is, but that it cannot be prioritized above human health. She also mentions that sport was transformative this year as a vehicle for activism especially with the rise of social media. Athletes have a responsibility to use their platform for good and meaningful messaging and action that can benefit greater society.


“In terms of the pandemic…it has accelerated the globalization of sport.”

Andrés Martinez is a journalist and professor of practice at Arizona State University. He has been studying the process of sports globalization, and emphasizes that while the pandemic has affected it, it hasn’t ended it. This year has demonstrated how sport and media shape one another and consequently our culture and international relations.


More from our April Issue: Now & Then – How Sport Has Transformed