All of my life I have been a very enthusiastic follower, and participant in sport. All the way from childhood to my now fairly advanced age I have been a player, manager, club sec, referee, umpire or paying customer at many different sports. Where I come from when you are young, if you are able, you kick a ball about and pick up all the valuable things that sport can instill in you.
Unlike far too many youngsters today, we did not see leaving school as a reason to stop playing. Sure enough other stuff encroached, family, work, and the various other things which I will not go into here. It was actually more than a game. Far more.
As I grew up, I began to see the global value of sport. I do not mean in monetary terms. My mind was captured during my younger years by the story of those soldiers who played a game of football one Christmas time. That seemed utterly fantastic to me. Yet, it was actually true, unlike so many of the things that stick in young minds. I also witnessed the boycott of South Africa, and understood the logic behind it. Looking back on that, I think it is fair to say that it did actually work. For sure it wasn't just the sporting aspect that did the trick, it would though be unreasonable to say that it played no part.
Sport DID possess the power to cross divides, political differences would be put to one side, the importance-in a sporting context- of fair and honourable competition was at the very top of the agenda. Countries teams who were actually at loggerheads with each other would walk out in arenas and give their absolute all, then, shake hands, exchange jerseys and then return home and the politics of it all would wash over everything. Just think back to Russia V USA Olympic ice hockey. Nothing better to see !
Slowly but surely, it all started to fall apart. Countries would refuse to attend the Olympics. Staggering really, however, it is what happened. Was this the first sign of sport losing its powers to sow the seeds which could eventually lead to healing ? If that was the case that would be more than bad enough.
In recent years I have questioned my lifelong belief in sport being able to overcome political divisions. Actually, I'm starting to think that sport is now being used as a way to gloss over some quite serious goings on around the globe. Fact is, money, business and corruption now seem to decide how sport conducts itself. You only have to look at the upcoming world cup to see a graphic illustration of this. That particular competition is a once every four years (normally) opportunity for every country on the planet to enjoy a vibrant sporting festival !
Errm, sorry, no it is not. What it has actually become is an opportunity for television networks to sell mundane advertising, even advertising for stuff that no sensible athlete would ever consider using. Maybe you recall Ronaldo throwing a bottle of a certain unhealthy soft drink out of his way during an interview at the Euros. Next day the papers were full of stories about the potential negative effect on shares in that megga billion dollar soft drinks manufacturer.
It is actually far worse than that. Why is a sporting event being held in such a place ? It goes on and on, F1 goes to Saudi and China for example. I'm not singling any particular sport out here. . Even the infantile Eurovision song contest (?) gave a nice shiny platform to Israel, that country currently being the worst possible example of apartheid and brutality on an ongoing basis .
Sport is now being used to project awful regimes as nothing out of the ordinary. Live pictures beamed into billions of homes of brand new stadiums, all singing all dancing extravaganzas at opening ceremonies. Commentators frothing at the mouth. No mention of starving populations in those very same host nations. In the case of Qatar there are many accounts of very poor people who had been given no option but to work on those stadiums actually DYING. Yet the show will most definitely go on. In glorious HD. Available now on the latest flat screen plasma.
Thing is, if fair and basic standards had to be met before any country could waste tens of millions on filled once stadiums, where could they actually be held ? Who in this day and age can justify the huge expense ? Maybe this contributes to to the likes of Saudi and Qatar being able to stage these "sporting" events ?
So, the show must go on,, maybe my naive idea of applying fairness standards is just not sporting enough eh ?