Sport is often thought to be a relaxing past-time, yet it can also be used as a political tool by governments to draw attention to their own policies, or their opposition to the policies of the opposing team.
The most famous political use of sport was probably the 1980 US and allies boycott of the Moscow Olympic games and whilst nothing quite as large has happened since, sport continues to be used by governments to achieve their aims.
Australia choosing to deport Djokovic drew attention to their strict vaccine policy and made the world watch, something which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. This is a rare use of sport as a political weapon because it is unplanned, and relies on a strict set of somewhat unpredictable circumstances.
More traditionally governments choose to partake in a diplomatic boycott, such as that of the US and UK at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. It can be planned beforehand and sends a clear message that the US and UK oppose the human rights abuses of China.
Many governments see sport as a fairly harmless weapon to wield. It has very few casualties: a diplomatic boycott, deporting someone or boycotting altogether, whilst different measures and each drastic, only affect a small group of individuals. Therefore there is a low casualty count in the eyes of governments, something which is dearly sought after in international relations.
The impact can be massive though, the use of sport as a political weapon often makes the world watch. This was exemplified by how the Djokovic visa drama was covered daily on the news around the world for two weeks, or how the 1980 boycott is still remembered. When sport is used in politics, the impact is felt around the world