I wrote a few weeks ago concerning the possible negative impact sport could be having on society as a whole, highlighting and celebrating a conflict between different groups. I kicked about the idea that something which is so deeply rooted in our collective mindset, sport and competition, could be divisive, subtly reinforcing the walls which could be erected between us all. Now it’s time to look at the other side of the coin.

We’ve just seen the end of Wimbledon and the European Football Championships and in the blink of an eye, we’ll be enthralled by the Olympics in Brazil. Actions of supreme strength and skill will be showcased and the titans of the arenas will do battle to claim the ultimate prize of Olympic gold. Yes there will be conflict in each event along the way but it has to seen as more than just an allegory for warfare.

To be involved in any of the events in the Olympics there isn’t any short cut. Years of dedication to perfecting the skills to compete. The correct diet, the correct practicing, the correct medical support all combine to mean that the athlete has the chance to take part. They could have done all of everything correctly but all they’ve managed to earn is the right to be involved. On the day it could all go wrong and all of the work could fizzle away.

And that’s just the athletes.

The Games Makers at the last Olympics in London were highlighted as having a massive effect. Volunteers coming together to give their time to add to the whole for others to enjoy without the need for payments. Giving so others get something.

I played as much sport as I could growing up. You name it, I gave it a go. I was really lucky that we had a big garden and that lawn became every sporting stadium around the world. I practiced football, rugby and cricket as well as generally rushing about doing stuff all kids do. When I then wanted to try sports at school, my teachers were there to oversee the inter school matches and I’m sure that early Saturday mornings would rather have been spent doing their own thing rather than looking after us kids. Then I played at local clubs. Coaching and matches needed my long suffering parents to drive me to all manner of locations around the county, then to other counties as I played representative sport.

Every person who is involved in sport will have people who have given their time and dedication to help them along. We all learn that working as a team can help us conquer tasks beyond us alone. We learn to both win and lose with grace, to accept that if you’ve done your best and still come up short, no-one can ask any more. We see just that in the Olympics when an athlete breaks their personal best, they’ve run or thrown or jumped to beyond anything they’ve ever been able to manage before, but they still came last. That person has delivered everything and more. They’ve shown that they have given all they could and for the fact that they’ve done the very best they could, no-one could expect anymore.

Sports are beyond two teams warring on the field of play. Sports allow each of us to test ourselves, to have fun in doing it and to give us the chance to give back to others. We are given a selection of vital life lessons which can help make the world a much better place as we all strive to achieve.

Sports could bring out the worst in people but it brings out the best in others. Seeing how the Wales fans have reacted to what the team did in the Euro tournament has been a testament to the positives. Huge groups of people following the team and celebrating the success. And they weren’t the only ones. Iceland for starters.

As with so many things in the world, there are two sides to each consideration, both fighting for supremacy. It’s vital we see that fact and try to take that view into everything we do.

I’ll leave you with this clip from the 1992 Olympics where the British sprinter Derek Redmond was injured mid race but needed to finish. He just couldn’t not. Limping on in pain, he was joined by his father who helped him make it over the line. The act encapsulates everything of sport. This is why sport must remain.

The video can be found on YouTube here.


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