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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 111

Sports, Peace and Political Meddling

By Oscar E V Fernando

Sport is an activity, governed by a set of rules or customs, and engaged in competitively; commonly conceived as physical capabilities it is evaluated on merits of judgment over execution of an activity in competition and, has now graduated from physical activities to mental or psychological levels with cyber sports etc. The word sport is derived from a French word ‘desport’ meaning leisure.

There is evidence to show that the Chinese had engaged themselves in sports such as gymnastics as early as 4000BC; monuments to Pharaohs indicate that sports such as swimming, fishing, javelin throwing, high jump and wrestling were well developed in Egypt thousands of years ago; polo and jousting had originated in Persia.

Military culture and sports influenced one another in ancient Greece and it is here that Olympic Games originated in a village called Olympia.

Industrialization, advancement of science and now information technologies with intense global communication, have brought about more leisure for sports activities; hence is the rush to witness competitive sports.

Today, pressures of competition, or obsession with individual achievement, further complicated by intrusions of technology, work against enjoyment and fair play by participants-thus making formal regulation of sports an intricate phenomenon!

Sportsmanship is an attitude that strives for fair play, courtesy, ethical behavior, integrity and grace in losing-basically it should be enjoyed for its own sake; this is expressed further by sentiments such as;

Not that you win or lose, but how you play the game, and-Importance is not winning but taking part etc.

Sportsmanship is also revealed by how each competitor behaves before, during and after competition in exhibiting conduct on winning or even losing.

An example is seen in the game of football where it is considered sportsmanlike to kick the ball out of play to allow treatment for an injured player on the one side; on the other side, to return the ball from the throw in!

Violence in sports involves crossing the line between fair competition and intentional aggressiveness in misguided shows of loyalty, dominance, anger or celebration.

Would those Sri Lankan politicians emulate these in parliament-if only they do grasp the nettle!!

Professionalism in sport has become intensified with mass media, leisure and winners’ celebrity status; this has resulted in a clash of interests between earnings and recreational aspects at the expense of valued traditions.

The most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle says the Olympic Creed.

This intense and competitive international struggle is what attracts huge crowds, breaking geographic, racial, social, economic, political and cultural barriers towards Olympic Games.

Every Olympic game witnesses this grand phenomenon of exhibiting the role that sports can play in the life of the individual, society and nation-thus showing solidarity and oneness of humanity-a spectacle one experiences when a mass of humanity gathers in one place such as in sports; and this surely is a harbinger for peace!

Would that all our ethnic and religious groups be wantonly and graciously drawn into being in readiness for the next Olympics-over to you Minister of Sports to initiate and give over to independent sports bodies and schools!

Citius-Altius-Fortius, three Latin words, meaning;

Swifter—Higher—Stronger, were coined by a Catholic priest to describe his students’ achievement in sports; these are the words adopted for the Olympic Motto.

It is strongly questioned that with such motivated and competitive striving would not animosity among rivals and potential enemies vanish at the end of it all?

It is reiterated that sports practiced in a healthy and harmonious way is a means to bringing peoples of different cultures and traditions together in a respectful and peaceful manner.

The Greek tradition of the Olympic Truce-a form of Cease Fire Agreement, with sports festivals in between, can give way to genuine and long-lasting peace among warring factions wherever they are!

Would that our politicians follow suite by turning to such constructive meddling!

This passage adopted by the writer from a spiritual journal, aptly describes what sport holds for peace among human beings;

‘In fact, dialogue and encounter through sport, holds great potential in the area of peace building and conflict prevention.

While the rule of law and justice remain the foundation of durable peace, sport provides the tool for warring factions to come together for a common purpose. These moments of unity may be brief and at times fleeting, nonetheless they are an important reminder that in human experience there are many more things that bind us together than those that tear us apart; further;

‘Along with fomenting dialogue across cultures and fostering peace, sport can also serve as a means for greater personal and social development. Through sport, the person develops one's creativity and talent, overcomes personal challenges, acquires a sense of belonging and solidarity, and learns discipline and a sense of sacrifice. These values redound to the benefit of the greater community and help us understand the value of the common good over personal glory’

It has been experienced that sport and politics can have a positive effect on each other, but in so far as politicians only have its interests at heart but have no direct bearing on sports, such as in the matter of selections made covertly or overtly.

The psyche of the participants is bound to get affected by constant changes motivated by politics and it is the purity and victory of the game that suffers in consequence.

There is much to be gained by the Spirit of Sports to achieve Peace in Sri Lanka—without meddlesome politicians disturbing the very peace of sports too.

Let go and let them play the game swiftly, highly and strongly!!

- Asian Tribune -

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