Dr. Van Rheenen first encountered sport tourism through the lens of social and political struggle during the Sochi Olympics. As a member of the International Research Network in Sport Tourism (IRNIST), he is committed to expanding the scholarly study of this growing field. His particular contributions include expanding the study of sport tourism beyond its traditional power centers in America and Western Europe and pushing for a more inclusive, equitable study of this growing economic phenomenon. 

Defining Sport Tourism: A Content Analysis of an Evolving Epistemology

Abstract: This paper conducts a systematic evaluation of one of the primary journals in the field of sport tourism research since its establishment in 1993. Drawing on extant literature with varying disciplinary approaches, this meta-review traces the development of key concepts and definitions underlying an evolving epistemology connected to sport tourism, as evidenced within the Journal of Sport & Tourism (JS&T). It does so by examining research specific to content previously unexplored. The study first conducted a content analysis based upon a keyword search, focusing on phrases in which sport and tourism appeared together. The study reviewed all texts, including articles, book chapters and editorials (n = 517), for the years 1993–2014. We then constructed a thematic analysis based upon the most common defining elements found within these texts. These extracted definitions were analyzed according to their paradigmatic elements. Based on these findings, this paper suggests the need to further define the epistemological boundaries of sport tourism for the twenty-first century.

Van Rheenen, D., Cernaianu, S., & Sobry, C. (2016, September 13). Defining sport tourism: A content analysis of an evolving epistemology. Journal of Sport & Tourism. Online.

A Skunk at the Garden Party: The Sochi Olympics, State-Sponsored Homophobia and Prospects for Human Rights Through Mega Sporting Events

Abstract: Mega sporting events, such as the Olympics, are sites of political struggle. Situating mega sporting events within the context of critical social theory, this article examines the potential of modern sport to serve as a vehicle for foreign policy and the promotion of international human rights. This article examines the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in light of Russian legislation that bans ‘propaganda of non-traditional relations’, resulting in what many have described as state-sponsored homophobia. Highlighting the international community’s response to this legislation, such as threatened boycotts, political statements and symbolic gestures of protest, the implications of the Sochi case study reveal the potential of mega sporting events to advance human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in Russia and perhaps elsewhere. As human rights are historically and culturally contested, this article discusses the role of identity politics and liberal internationalism within the realm of global sport diplomacy. Finally, the Sochi case study contributes to future discussions concerning   efforts at balancing hosting rights, human rights and the social responsibilities associated with mega sporting events. Specific recommendations are provided.

Van Rheenen, D. (2014). A skunk at the garden party: the Sochi Olympics, state-sponsored homophobia and prospects for human rights through mega sporting events. Journal of Sport and Tourism, DOI: 10.1080/14775085.2014.949287

Conference Description: "Derek Van Rheenen’s research interests include social theory, cultural studies of sport and sports tourism. A former Academic All-American and professional soccer player, Van Rheenen teaches courses on sport, culture, and education.  Van Rheenen directs the Cultural Studies of Sport in Education Master's degree concentration for students studying the intersections of school and sport. He also directs the Athletic Study Center at U.C. Berkeley. Dr. Van Rheenen has been a Visiting Professor at the International University of Monaco, is an invited speaker at national and international conferences, and is regularly interviewed about the role of sport in society and the intersections of sport and schooling, particularly American college sports.  Van Rheenen is a founding member of the International Research Network in Sports Tourism (IRNIST) and presented a keynote speech last year at the first annual conference at the University of Lille, France.  The paper he presented, "A Skunk at the garden party:  The Sochi Olympics, state-sponsored homophobia and prospects for human rights through mega sporting events," was recently published in the Journal of Sports & Tourism."