LibLink: Christine Jardine: Birmingham games shows sport and politics do mix

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine reflects how the “multicultural, diverse and joyful” Commonwealth Games opening ceremony reflected modern society and mused on the role sport has had in furthering the cause of inclusion.

The mechanical raging bull, dragged into the stadium by women representing chain makers from the industrial revolution, was almost uncomfortable to watch. A reminder of who we were, the journey we have made and the journey we still have to make.

The statement by Malala Yousafzai about the welcome she had received when she first came to the city that she and her family now call home clearly underlined the message.

And that was not the only thought-provoking aspect. Tom Daley carried the Queen’s baton alongside the LGBT flag, to remind us that in 35 of the countries competing, homosexuality is still a crime. Seven of them have a maximum penalty of death.

Each athlete who carried the baton in turn in the stadium was doing so to raise awareness of a specific cause.

Christine praised the organisers for having one games which included all athletes:

That commitment is enshrined in the organisers’ decision to reject a separate para-games in favour of a single all-encompassing, integrated celebration of sport. That it has taken so long to achieve is the only disappointment.

She highlighted the importance of sporting boycotts and protests in ending apartheid in South Africa and in civil rights and praised the sporting establishment for themselves taking inclusion forward:

But this time it is the sporting establishment themselves who have taken up the baton and seem determined to make a contribution to change.

Perhaps they have been emboldened by the reaction of others such as Eurovision, grand slam tennis and various other sports in ostracising Russia and supporting of Ukraine.

She contrasted the opening ceremony with the race to the bottom going on in the Conservative Party:

It is clear that when the cause is big enough it cannot be kept out of entertainment or the sporting arena.

Ironically, the juxtaposition of what we are seeing in Birmingham with our current political landscape is stark. Tory leadership candidates look wildly out of sync with not just the country but the rest of the world as “the other” – celebrated loudly on Thursday night – is shunned in debate after debate.

It is hard not to feel that those cheering spectators were representative of many more than were actually in the stadium.

What they were celebrating and will be expressed throughout these games is a living, breathing argument against building barriers. Against sending people away.

You can read the whole article here.

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2 Comments

  • George Thomas 2nd Aug '22 - 1:39pm

    Something to be said about being separate but together as opposed to together but separate?

    The para-athletes being seen at the same time truly has been a highlight – well done to whoever first proposed this.

  • The Commonwealth games being smaller than the Olympics, naturally has more room in the schedule.

    What was clear from London 2012 and this Commonwealth games, these events are now too big for a city and are actually regional/national events.

    I just love seeing Lea Valley Velopark (London) being rebranded as Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games.

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