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Edited by Sten Söderman and Harald Dolles
Chapter 5: Comparing apples with oranges in international elite sport studies: is it possible?
International comparative studies are one of the most complicated areas of research (for example, da Costa and Miragaya, 2002; Haag, 1994; Henry et al., 2005; Porter, 1990). In sport the issue is even more convoluted because sports systems are closely enmeshed with the culture of a nation and therefore each system is unique. In the USA , for example, sport is highly embedded in the school system that is designed to feed athletes into the university system (Sparvero et al., 2008). There is no sport club tradition in the USA that is comparable to the kind found elsewhere in the world. These and other differences between nations make comparison of sport determinants, and elite sport in particular, in an international context difficult. Cultural factors shape the environment surrounding sports: they are integrated with the determinants and not isolated from them. Such factors change only gradually and are difficult for outsiders to replicate (Porter, 1990). Furthermore (elite) sport development is dominated to a large degree by a nation’s political system. Politics determines policies (Houlihan, 1997; Houlihan and Green, 2008). In addition, processes of governmentalization and commercialization influence sport considerably, yet they vary greatly among nations.
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