Two mega sport events, namely the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the Incheon Asian Games, organized at a close interval, movies centered around sports and sportspersons, franchise leagues of different sports, and most recently, Satyamev Jayate’s production highlighting the significance and power of sports to positively change lives of many, all together have generated a major interest in and shifted the attention to disciplines other than cricket, and rightly so.
In an otherwise cricket frenzy nation, the combined effort of all this would help long neglected sport disciplines in gaining wider public support and encouragement.
All this effort could facilitate fringe disciplines in becoming a mainstream one. A heightened public awareness and support could further the cause of democratization of governing bodies. At the same time though, we shall call upon the athletes to assume greater social responsibilities. Is it too much to ask our sportspersons to invest back into the society?
The society invests dearly in making of a champion. No athlete has climbed the ladder of success without the support and encouragement of a wide range of people. Thus, as human beings and as an athlete, does it not become their responsibility to get out into the communities and invest into people who identify with and look up to them? Does the duty to inspire and encourage others not increase as the athlete gains prominence and success? Should they not, in one way or other, reciprocate the support received from the society?
Sport speaks in a universal language, that too, on the widest possible stage. Xu Guoqi, a professor of history, is of the opinion that sport commands a distinctive appeal perhaps shared only by religion. Additionally, the United Nations recognize the mass appeal of prominent sportspersons in “motivating people to act in the interest of improving their own lives and those of their fellow citizens.”
This means that sports and sportspersons have a symbolic potency to communicate to a much larger audience, especially children and young adults who idolize professional athletes. Sportspersons, as Rodrigo Fonseca Ashton (a sports-for-development program specialist in Brazil for UNICEF) puts it, “have the super power to reach hearts, motivate souls and encourage change.” Weight thrown by prominent athletes behind a social cause is crucial in generating awareness and mobilizing resource towards the issue.
We need our elite athletes to understand their power in imparting positive social learning. We need our captains to lead us in the fight against various social-ills. We need our winners to inject hope in people subject to various discriminations. We need our ‘goodwill ambassadors’ to tell thousands fighting deadly diseases that they are not alone in this fight. We need our (sporting) heroes to tell their fascinating stories and motivate children in taking up sports as a career choice. We need our role models to educate the masses about the incentives of playing. We need our decorated players to tell the parents that there are achievable career opportunities in sports for their children. We need our champions to champion the cause of developing sports at the grassroots, without which national level sports cannot grow. We need them to help us create a sporting nation.
We need a sports-Renaissance. Former players as well as current athletes both need to be at the helm of this Renaissance. It would not only make playing accessible to all but would also ensure that we would use sports for good, for development, and for peace.
The essay was published by The News Minute