During the 20th century, sports took on an increasingly international flavor; aside from the world championships for individual sports, like soccer’s World Cup, large-scale international meets, such as the Pan-American games and the Commonwealth games, were inaugurated. Sports have correspondingly become increasingly politicized, as shown in the boycott of the 1980 Moscow games by Western nations and the retaliatory boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles games by Soviet-bloc nations, an exchange brought on by Soviet actions in Afghanistan.
Politics directly related with economic issues, influence the course of action one country might choose against another and affect sports as they are a vital part of a nation’s role in the global scene. Individual countries during the recent past have boycotted sport events or used them for propaganda reasons and thus, imposed their political views affecting the global scene. Due to the worlds’ interest in sport, the power to influence the public becomes a huge issue and has been the reason for many ‘country-battles’ in the recent past. At the same time, the commercialism that accompanied spectator sports gradually engulfed both amateur and professional sports. By the late 20th century, the televising of athletic events had made sports big business. On the other hand, expanding public concern with personal physical health led to mass participation, not necessarily competitive, in sports like running, hiking, cycling, martial arts, and gymnastics. Athletic activity by women expanded, especially after political action in the 1960s and 1970s opened doors to many forms of competition and an increased share of public funding for sports.
Economic integration and free trade have and surely will, continue to affect the sports and fitness industry in the future. Countries use sports either to impose their economic power over others, or to elevate their current role. Due to sport’s great costs, counties’ governments engage themselves in promoting and supporting these economic needs by authorising special public monetary programs or by seeking private financing. Corporate sponsorships are today a reality, as companies spend about $6 billion annually sponsoring activities ranging from the Olympic Games to the World Cup. The popularity of sponsored events is due to several reasons. They enhance the reputation and image of the sponsor, they provide a focal point for marketing efforts and sales campaigns, and they generate publicity and media coverage. More cost-effective than advertising, sponsorships include prestige and at times target a worldwide audience. Broadcasting rights, ticket sales, merchandising, and sponsorships, are the main reasons of sport’s unique role in a country’s strategy.
Living today in the information age, with amazing revolutions in technology and communication, sport experts believe that sport is greatly influenced by the actions of individual nations, as well as by the international trends that influence the world economy. Moreover, being a spectacle, sport athletes have become professionals that through them their country’s culture is promoted and their achievements contribute to the country’s fame. Thus, the sport and fitness industries, as part of our Global Society, have become lately an issue of great concern. Studies worldwide provide valuable information about the political, geographical, economic, cultural, social, aesthetic and historical aspects of sports and it is firmly believed that they will continue ‘shaping’ one another in the years to come.