Sport as a tool of politics: A study on Myanmar's Southeast Asian Games 2013
Since a new semi-civilian government came to power in March 2011, Myanmar has embarked on sweeping reforms to end its isolation and integrate its economy with the international economy. As a signal of stimulating the economic stagnation, President Thein Sein's government revamped finance and investment laws to draw more foreign investment into the country and asked for financial and technical assistance from the international community at the same time. However, the image of a military-influenced civilian government has created administrative problems for Myanmar's policy of national re-unification and economic development. So Myanmar badly needed to improve its national image and legitimacy in order to reduce the obstacles to its regional and international political and economic objectives. As a diversely populated country, Myanmar leaders thought that projecting a positive national image will contribute to a higher level of national brand and uplift their political legitimacy. Therefore the government decided to host the 27th SEA Games which may be vital for re-branding of Myanmar and so they prepared to formulate this idea since before the transfer of power from military government to a new semi-civilian government in 2011. The Games was a good opportunity for the former Myanmar military leaders to showcase their top-down democratization model. Eventually, with the honour of hosting the Games in December 2013 that returned to the country after 44 years, Myanmar successfully hosted the biggest regional sporting event as a promotion for the new Myanmar. Especially, Myanmar showed its kind hospitability throughout the Games while sport athletes uplifted the nation’s image by earning the most medals for the first time since the competition began in 1959. Therefore, it can be said that hosting the SEA Games could revitalize the standard of Myanmar sports. After the Games, Myanmar people proudly say the words, "That's Myanmar". They have swallowed those words under an oppressive era for decades. The aim of this thesis is to investigate how the once-pariah state, Myanmar, used the 2013 SEA Games to present itself as a normal and friendly country and to achieve international recognition.