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Bondies take to the track to experience Sports Diplomacy in the fast lane

A group of Bond students got the opportunity to experience international relations ‘in action’ when they participated in a Sports Diplomacy Masterclass at the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix recently.

The trackside Masterclass - which was a joint venture between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Consular Corps of Melbourne, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, Melbourne University and Bond University - sought to showcase Australia as a leader in policy and scholarship in Sports Diplomacy.

The students heard from high-profile guest speakers from each of the event partners on the topics of Sports Diplomacy (in theory and in practice) and Australia’s Foreign Policy, with the keynote speech being delivered by international racing legend, Sir Jackie Stewart, on sport and the Government’s role in tackling public health issues.

Stuart Murray, Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Diplomacy at Bond University, was a guest speaker at the event, and invited some of his International Relations students to help expand their understanding of Sports Diplomacy beyond the classroom.

“Sport has existed for millennia and the power of sport to bring people, countries, and cultures together is phenomenal,” Dr Murray said.

“The coupling of sport with diplomacy - another age old practice - as a foreign policy approach is both clever and practical, especially given Australia’s fondness for both.

“It is crucial for my students to be able to marry the theory and practice of sports diplomacy, and the Masterclass provided them with the perfect opportunity to do so.”

Following some lively Question & Answer sessions and networking with a high-profile audience of government officials, international diplomats and CEOs of major sporting codes, the students were treated to a tour of the F1 Grand Prix pits.

One of the International Relations students who attended the event, Cindy Minarova-Banjac, said the Masterclass gave her and her fellow students an excellent opportunity to learn about sports diplomacy strategies from different angles.

“The Masterclass enabled us to gain a unique insight into Ambassadors' opinions on how their country uses sports diplomacy, how it overcomes political barriers and allows humans to connect and communicate,” Cindy said.

“Theory is important as it allows scholars, business people and policy makers to define and understand sports diplomacy. However, without putting the concept into practice - and making it enforceable and workable - sports diplomacy would have little real purpose.”  

Student Nicholas McLean said he was fascinated to learn how sport bound together disparate groups of people from all walks of life.

“Having unrestricted access to members of the Melbourne Diplomatic Corps was a real highlight for me, as was hearing Jackie Stewart speak; his struggle to overcome severe dyslexia and triumph as a racing legend was a phenomenal story of personal hardship, dedication and resolve was inspiring,” Nicholas said.

“Rarely are students afforded the opportunity to attend a professional function, let alone have access to the attendees afterwards. The ability to have frank and candid discussions with members of the private and public sectors is an insightful experience for those of us seeking guidance in navigating our own career paths.”

Bond’s Executive Director of Sport, Mr Garry Nucifora said he was very pleased to sponsor the event.

“Sports Diplomacy is a huge issue in the multi-billion dollar international sporting industry, and it is excellent to see Bond academics and students, not just participating in, but leading, discussion and thinking in this dynamic area,” he said.

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