Sports, Patriotism and Nationalism

Cambodia’s position regarding the list of medals in the 32nd SEA Games of which it is the host country seems to be for some people the only issue that matters: first, second or lower on the SEA Games medal table?  

In their mind, it’s all about national pride with, as mantra, this simplistic assertion: The more medals we have, the stronger—if not superior—our people are.    

It is normal for international competitions to stir a surge of patriotism in every country involved, and the more so in the host country. One is thrilled of course of the success of those representing one’s flag. But going further would be nationalism. For those who would not know the difference between the two, let’s consider this definition suggested by the French writer Romain Gary: patriotism is the love of one’s own; nationalism is the hatred of others.  

Fortunately, during the SEA Games, the first definition is the one that will have prevailed over the second one, this reflecting the games’ motto “Sports: Live in Peace.”

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