“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.” This rather unknown quote by Nelson Mandela reflects perfectly upon the importance of sport. It is not only an efficient means to live a healthy and content life, it also influences the European society in a positive way.
The sport enthusiasm becomes especially seizable in Europe every two years when the big football tournaments take place. But also the Olympic games tend to fascinate people all over Europe and the world. These big sport events hold more to their name than just giving sport the scene it deserves; they are a great political strategy to promote ones country. Sadly this powerful means has already been taken advantage of multiple times in world history. The Olympic games of 1936 in Berlin were a huge propaganda project to support the National Socialist world view. During the Cold War major sport events were used as some form of representation of the political system, the athletes were trapped in a fight between communism and capitalism, a fight between the Eastern and the Western world instead of a fair competition among fellow athletes as it should be.
When sport events can lead to all these unwanted consequences, how can Nelson Mandela actually talk about sport as “the power to unite people”? The idea of hosting competitions only one party can win does not quite seem as the most efficient aid to unite people, especially taking the partisan world view, spectator violence and enhanced national pride into consideration.
Despite everything, sport unites people. It unites people from one nation to celebrate their culture and it allows them to be proud of their heritage in a healthy and perfectly normal way. But sport also unites people across borders. In ancient history, Greeks and Romans interrupted their battles to compete peacefully in the first Olympic games. Sport events bring nations together, at least temporarily. In my opinion, a great means to bring especially the European nations closer together is the new athletics format “The Match” that took place in Minsk this year where a team consisting of athletes from Europe competes against a team of athletes from the USA.
Pierre de Coubertin, the “father” of the modern Olympics, even considered large sport events as important tools for the promotion of human rights. They encourage active peace, international understanding in a spirit of mutual respect between people from different origins, ideologies and creeds. Sport events ease international tension and allow to follow the apparent psychological need that exists to confront each other, but luckily without any harm. It is “a war of peace”.
The language of sport is universal and especially appeals to the youth. Sport can be a common ground for teenagers and adolescents. It is easier to get to know people in a foreign country when you take part in sport activities because then there already is something that connects you and allows you to bond. Taking part in sport activities provides young people with opportunities for social interaction through which they can develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for their full participation in civil society. En plus, there is always the possibility to volunteer in the wide field of sports (to get to know more about volunteering possibilities check out the article by Nomad2018) which allows young people to travel and again, connect with others who are passionate about similar activities.
“Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.” This second part of the rather unknown Mandela quote sums up perfectly what I am trying to prove here. Sport events and sport in general help to overcome differences and encourage dialogues. It generates shared interests and values, teaching social skills necessary for democratic citizenship. Sport is a universal element in all cultures and the base of all kinds of sports is fairness. Equipped with these values sport contributes extremely positive to a society of solidarity in Europe and world wide. This is “sportidarity”.