«May the Olympic torch be the light at the end of this tunnel that mankind has faced». This is what Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, said on March 24, after having agreed with the Japanese authorities to postpone the XXXII Games until 2021.
For the first time in history, the Olympics are “bundled up” and postponed to another date, without much certainty, to tell the truth: the questions whether the world can travel to Japan and whether Japan can invite the world to its home remain open.
Along with the Olympic Games, many other sporting events have been suspended and the block of the prodigious spectacle’s mechanism has laid bare the dependence and the close relationship of the world’s “games department” with the powerful sports industry.
There is a lack of emotions, joy, pleasure for the beauty of the sporting gesture, of the pathos for the uncertain outcome of the result, of identification with the modern heroes. All extremely valuable raw material for global marketing.
Together with social distancing, one experiences the absence of the noble celebration of the body which, in sport, takes on a fascinating form. The highly symbolic value of the getting-together is also diminished, which in Olympic games finds a manifestation that sometimes sublimates international politics.
All of us, consciously or not, experience a void, certainly not comparable to what women and men from all over the world experience, whether they are able-bodied or disabled. They had planned every day in the calendar of the four-year period, faced a meticulous preparation, with renunciations and efforts aimed at expressing the best of themselves between July and August 2020: a global disaster.
The sudden and tragic manifestation of the fragility and vulnerability of systems highlighted the flaws in the technocratic paradigm of the market and profit. Yet this time, it highlighted also the extraordinary possibility of change.
“In this period, many sporting events are suspended, but the best fruits of sport come out: endurance, team spirit, brotherhood, giving the best of him/herself. So let’s relaunch sport for peace and development”. It was April 6, already in the middle of a pandemic: on the “World Day of Sport for Development and Peace” Pope Francis, with these simple words, recalled the authentic vocation of sport.
A suggestion to discover its soul and create culture. In the pandemic, the values coached in sport, have been collectively highlighted as civil values: the ability to withstand limitations and difficulties, the feeling of being part of the same community (taking care of oneself and equally of those you meet, those who need to be saved by putting your own life at risk), the discovery of a stronger bond, that of universal brotherhood. These are widespread words and attitudes that have entered the daily vocabulary and that we cannot afford to forget if we do not want to “waste this crisis”.
If sport makes these values plastically visible, the athletes, the fans, the communicators, those who exercise responsibility for governing sport, the teachers, the sponsors, all of us, are called to become aware of the responsibility to let sport contribute to peace and development.
We have one year, let’s work to make sport cleaner, freer from economic constraints; we can make it a daily experience of personal and collective growth.
The tragic story of George Floyd has been taken as a symbol of man’s overpowering of another man, especially the different. There has been a new and stronger global awareness of the problem. The greatest athletes have launched powerful messages, without too many words but with very effective communication.
On the streets of the poorest countries, and in the suburbs, sport continues every day to gather and connect the freshest energies that are facing life with hope. There is no need for anything, just a space and a game tool, more easily a ball.
Some boy from those streets, from those squares, with the taste of learning and chasing a dream, has become a champion. Even if not, that free, playful activity can contribute to growth, to improve oneself, to develop generosity and willingness to collaborate.
May we invest in the spreading of sport, especially in the suburbs but also where, by contrast, in a completely different context, children are closed in a virtual world, losing the dimension of the game and of relationship, perhaps accompanied by trained and passionate teachers.
There is much we can do in this “void”, at various levels.
We hope that at the end of the tunnel, in the words of Bach, the Olympics will find the best scenario, not only for the coronavirus.