With the FIFA World Cup upon us, articles like this one pops up on my radar. And I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to comment on politics beyond national security and Parliaments.
Sports are peppered with controversy, usually leading to conflicts between countries. This year alone has seen comments from pundits galore over the use of the Jabulani ball in the World Cup and the steepness of the luge track at the Olympics. Everyone is trying to find an edge as sports are about competition. And the competition, with its mix of patriotic fervor and elite play, is what makes following international tournaments fun.
Nonetheless, the capacity of sports to move beyond sheer entertainment is unique. It’s the policy of cricket diplomacy. Feuding nations India and Pakistan made strides towards better relations over the last decade through tours (cricket-speak for series of matches played in both the test and one-day formats) in both countries. The borders which were usually sealed were opened to let thousands of fans go to see these games. High-level talks were started over the good-will that was built, focusing on the commonalities between the two countries, such as culture and cricket. These talks were actually gaining traction till the unfortunate incidents of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The role of sports is moving past traditional arenas (couldn’t resist the pun!). The United Nations recognizes the importance of the role of sports as exhibited by GA Resolution 63/135 and the UN Office of Sport for Peace and Development. Public health professionals advocate the use of sport camps to promote safe sex and other better health practices in developing countries, particularly to young men (a traditionally hard to reach demographic). Charities like Right to Play use sports to connect with children in war-torn places and engage with disadvantaged communities.
Diplomacy and ways to make the world better exist in the most surprising situations. If sports have taught us anything, it is that with the world being a highly dynamic playground, constant adaptation and unconventional thinking is what is going to move us forward in solving some of the more tricky problems in the international arena.