Calling for Timeout. The Globalization of Protest against Mega Sporting Events, 1960s to the Present


Time frame

September 2019 – August 2023

Project description

These days, protest and sport almost seem synonymous, from athlete activism in solidarity with Black Lives Matter to protest against sporting events in authoritarian states. But how has sport become such an enticing platform for protest? Why is it that human rights and sporting events are now two sides of the same coin? Why do the IOC and FIFA now embrace human rights and environmental sustainability rhetorically, whereas they categorically rejected both as ‘political’ until very recently?

This PhD project sets out to explore how and why public protest against the hosting of mega-sporting events, and in particular the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup, has emerged and transnationalised from the 1960s to the present. The research focuses on local urban and environmental protest and cross-border protest around human rights and political issues. The project also aims to examine in which ways international sport organisations, as well as host states, have responded to opposition over time. In doing so, this dissertation aims to bring together the fields of sport, protest, and political history on the one hand, and research on social movements studies and international organizations on the other


sport, sport protest, human right, athlete activism, Olympic Games, Football World Cup, international sports organizations, mega sporting events


  • Paul Reef, ''Spelen boycotten? Pak liever de sportbonden aan'', Trouw​, 15 December 2021.
  • Paul Reef, ‘’Over mensenrechten, mega-sportevenementen en politiek’’, Sport Knowhow XL, 8 June 2021
  • Paul Reef, ‘’Geschiedenis leert dat sportboycots er wel degelijk toe doen’’, de Volkskrant, 3 March 2021
  • Paul Reef, ‘’NOlympics in Amsterdam! De strijd over de stedelijke ruimte en het stedelijke krachtenveld rondom Amsterdams Olympische kandidatuur, 1984-1986’’, Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 133, no. 4 (2020): 659-686
  • Paul Reef, ‘’Sport op het snijvlak van transnationale en politieke geschiedenis’’, [Book review The Ideals of Global Sport. From Peace to Human Rights]. Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 133, no. 3 (2020): 585-587




Paul Reef,