The 1970 British Commonwealth Games: Scottish reactions to apartheid and sporting boycotts

Fiona Skillen, Matthew L. McDowell

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    Abstract

    The 1970 British Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh is widely thought to have been a barnstorming success, and an excellent advertisement for Scotland. Recent research by the authors, however, shows that the event was nevertheless a deeply politicized one: reflective of Scotland’s status as a ‘stateless nation’, of Westminster politics during the era more generally, and of the politics surrounding apartheid South Africa’s sporting contacts with the outside world. The Games managed to avert a mass boycott organized by the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SANROC), in retaliation for the Marylebone Cricket Club’s recent invitation of the South African national cricket team.

    This article will explore Scotland’s place as a non-state actor within the 1970 crisis. Attention will be given to the domestic political response, both from Scottish MPs, members of local Scottish councils (particularly within Edinburgh itself), and from Scottish National Party (SNP) activists, angered that Scotland should pay for the crimes perceived to be made by an English sporting body. However, our piece goes beyond these discourses, to examine the broader sporting relationship that Scots had with South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), governed by white supremacist regimes during the period. Policy documents, housed in the National Records of Scotland, express UK Cabinet-level concerns about the actions of individual sporting clubs’ tours of the countries. This article will also look at how cabinet ministers, most notably Labour’s Minister for Sport Denis Howell, intervened to shape Scotland’s devolved sporting councils’ policies on contacts with South Africa and Rhodesia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)367-383
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Sport History
    Volume44
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2017

    Keywords

    • Commonwealth Games
    • Scotland
    • sport history
    • South Africa

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