Friday, 7 February 2014

The Inspiration of Sport

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games are underway today. The Olympics is the only venue where all the worlds greats from multiple disciplines are on show at the same place and the same time.
There are world-cup events in every discipline, but these all take place in different places. We do not get to see the world cup of downhill skiing happening alongside the world championship of speed skating and cross-country racing.
In summer, the world of track and field happens all the time, but the best never compete alongside fencing, swimming, equestrianism, and boating.
It is the one venue where the best of the best all get together at the same time. That's why, despite all the political crap, despite all the commercialism, despite the crass hype, despite the greedy "intellectual property rights" that has the Olympic brand jealously guarded beyond all reason, I still find myself deeply moved and inspired when the games come around.

That is what sport is for. It's not, as some facile superficial dismissals have put it, organized violence, it is a deeply embedded spiritual drive to improve, to excel, to succeed. The focus on winning, frequently winning at all costs, is a pitfall for a great many, and it is hard to take defeat or loss well. Henri "The Rocket" Richard said, "The Englishman who said 'it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game' sounds like a big loser, to me." That sums up the win-at-all-cost mentality that oftentimes produces spectacular results, but always destroys souls, and also misses the point. A better way to phrase it would have been, "it's not whether you win or lose, but whether you have given your honest, best measure."

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