THE UNIQUELY UNIFYING POWER OF SPORTS, AND WHY IT MATTERS

  ©Ezra Shaw (Getty Images)

©Ezra Shaw (Getty Images)

In an often divided world, sport is a unique and important connective tissue that binds people together, both across and within societies. As we think about the forums that unite us as people, regardless of background or beliefs, it is hard to think of many as powerful as the stadiums we fill to cheer for our favourite teams and players, or the fields where we play together for pleasure and exercise.

The world is a fractured place. There’s conflict between countries all over the globe, and also conflict within countries as we become siloed with others who share our values and beliefs. Yet throughout history, people who otherwise have little in common have come together on neighbourhood pitches and in packed stadiums, as fans and as players, and put those differences aside for the sake of their teams. Sport’s role in reducing conflict can be traced back to the creation of the Olympic Games.

Nelson Mandela said in 2000: “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. Sport can create hope where there was only despair.” Any discussion of the power of sport has finally to include its importance as a vehicle to teach us the lessons of leadership, good health, teamwork, fair play, self-reliance and continuous improvement. Sport isn’t just important because we can play it our whole lives, but also because the lessons we learn in sport stay with us.