National heroes: Sport and the creation of icons

11 Jul 2016

Throughout its history different sporting forms have contributed to the concept of national identity or nationalism. A major part of this process has involved the creation of sporting heroes or icons. This current collection aims to contribute to research in this area by focusing upon a wide variety of examples exploring the cultural contexts in which these icons or heroes have been created. As a summary to the collection, this paper will examine the case studies offered here among others, and explore how sporting icons have been used to create or enhance a sense of nationhood for the countries in which they exist. This paper will also investigate how some sporting heroes, often considered to have had a transformative impact on their sport (either on or off the field of play), have become icons of a particular time period or era and how such sporting ?heroism? has been developed. The genesis of this collection arose from a belief on the part of the editors that in many ways the history of sport in particular nations can be embodied by the reputation and/or actions or life experiences of certain individuals. Indeed, through a detailed analysis of the historical contribution offered by such individuals it is often possible to identify wider issues around nationhood, ethnicity, race, sexuality and gender. Thus the aim of this special issue has been to bring to the fore a number of case studies, from different parts of the world and across different sports, of individuals who capture the essence of a nation, a movement or a cause through their involvement in sport.