The increasing success of the developing countries,- majority of those belonging to the Non-Aligned Movement- in the sporting arena in the second half of the 20th century constitutes one of the major landmarks in the annals of international sports . With the landmark gold medal won by Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia in the Marathon event at the 1960 Rome Olympics, -the first gold medal to be won by a black athlete- the developing countries of the Non-Aligned movement forayed proactively in the field of sports and NAM itself started to activate its policies in the sphere of sports.
The collective power of these developing countries was already manifested in the election of Joao Havelange to the Presidency of FIFA in 1974. The developing countries rallied behind the candidature of Havelange on his electoral plank of promoting the game of football in the developing world and ensuring wider participation in global competitions.
The rising power of the Afro-Asian nations was visible when Asia and Africa were granted an extra place for the 1982 FIFA World Cup finals, and the total number of competing teams was increased from 16 to 24. The collective power of the Afro Asian nations further saw an introduction of new tournaments (primarily aimed at popularising football in developing countries) such as World Youth Cup, the first edition of which was held in Tunisia in 1977.
At the 5th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held at Colombo in 1976, calls were made for the ‘democratization of international sports organisations and the abolition of apartheid in sports with a view to transferring the relations in the field of sports and promoting the policy of non-alignment among the people.”
After the 1976 Conference, the countries of the Non-Aligned showed a marked interest in the development of international sporting relations. NAM clarified its vision for a sports policy in the “Manifesto and Plan of Action for Co-operation in and Development of Physical Education and Sports among the Non-Aligned Countries” signed in 1978, Algeria.
The policy document had the following objectives: 1) Encouraging countries to give priorities to develop a national plan for sports in the NAM Member States; 2)Stimulating exchange and bilateral and multilateral cooperation and assistance among the NAM Member States; 3) Intensification of the struggle for the democratization of decision-making structure in decision making bodies of international sports; and 4) to promote the broadest possible sports exchange among non-aligned countries by organising special competitions and extending invitations to national and international events sponsored by the members of the Movement.
The new International Sports order envisaged by the developing countries was defined by analysts in terms of “issues related to power, issues related to culture, and issues related to equity, where power referred to the decision-making in international sports organizations, culture referred in general terms to the contents and practice of international sport and, equity dealt with the guiding principles of international sports relations”.
As the countdown to the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil begins, it must be pointed out that this is the first time that Olympic Games are being hosted in South America, and that any African country is yet to host the Olympic games and largely. The developing world has been devoid from profiting from one of the most lucrative sporting events in the world, primarily due to lack of funds, infrastructure, and the will to begin the arduous bidding process. Yet, in the last few decades, the performance of the developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America on the sports fields has matched and sometimes even outshone the performances of athletes from Europe and North America. There has also been a rise in the hosting of global sporting mega events in the global South. South Africa successfully hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and the 2010 Commonwealth Game were hosted in New Delhi. One of the defining factors behind the rise of sports in developing countries was the collective demand to enforce a new international sports order nearly four decades ago, whose significance and legacy can-not be undermined.