World Lithuanian Sports Games and the Shaping of Lithuanian Diaspora, 1978-1988

Egidijus Balandis (Vytautas Magnus University)

After WWII, the Lithuanians in exile employed various strategies to foster connections among the community dispersed worldwide. They established a transnational network of associations and events that nurtured those ties and strengthened the Lithuanian diaspora. One of the practices employed was sport. The presentation is aimed at examining the role of the World Lithuanian Sports Games in forging and strengthening connections among dispersed Lithuanians. Before being permanently transferred to Lithuania (in 1991), the Games were held in Canada (1978), the USA (1983) and Australia (1988). In this presentation I examine the practices, ritualistic elements and narratives that predominated the event. By exploring some personal experiences, I also investigate the impact of participation on individual identity and community engagement. Preliminary findings suggest that the Games facilitated (albeit with geographic limitations) cross-border connections among the Lithuanian youth and provided a space for the transmission of cultural memory, national identity elements and diaspora goals to the younger generation.