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Playing for a cause!
The contribution of sports to society is much more than what meets the eye
Mankind’s sojourn with sports is perhaps as old as his rendezvous with the very concept of civilisation. Even in the pre-historic era, rival kingdoms often used sports as a medium to get a momentary respite from relentless conflicts. From the Greek civilisation onwards, sports started getting institutionalised as a key activity. It was the Greeks who introduced the concept of Olympics, the resonance of which can be felt till this millennium. With the onset of 20th century & the two World Wars bringing about paradigm shift in the way the world would henceforth function, sports have become a crucial reflection of the changing geo-politics & the dominance of few countries in the world. Emergence of USA & USSR as the only two superpowers, got frequently reflected by their medal tallies in the Olympics. While the Cold War continued & both sides remained hamstrung by the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), it was the Olympics (both summers & winters) where USA & USSR started settling scores. More often than not, most of the medals went to either of the two parties or their satellite nations.
Gradually sports also became a levelling factor between the Whites & Blacks & other races like Asian & Hispanic. It is in sports where Africa as a continent has been able to garner much of the respect which it has been deprived of in other fields. While they continued their dominance in every kind of sports, especially in football & athletics, incidentally in most of the European nations & in USA, the ethnic Africans (brought centuries back for slavery) started dominating & representing the country in every possible game. USA is as much known today for Bill Gates & Steve Jobs as it is known for the icons like Aurther Ash, Michael Jordan, Carl Lewis & Tiger Woods. The mother of all ironies is that most of players of the 1998 FIFA World Cup winning French team which showed its elegance even in the 2006 World Cup are not ethnically French but Africans. How many actually know that Zinedine Zidane is ethnically an Algerian?
In the recent past, China has become the talking point of sports and that it’s hosting the 2008 Olympics, is a reflection of its increasing economic prowess. Last but not the least, is the fact that sports in essence are a reflection of the state of the health of the society. No prizes for guessing that India with its ranking of 126 in the UNDP HDI takes solace in an occasional silver or bronze medal, while those who are highest in the medals tally, top the UNDP list too.
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