Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Editorial

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Editorial

Article excerpt

Sport has become a universal language. At some time or other in their lives many people respond to its appeal--whether as a form of recreation, a way of keeping fit, or a test of stamina. As a mass social phenomenon, it provides an outlet for popular enthusiasm and an opportunity for the individual to join in the life of the community. On some occasions--as during World Cup competitions and the Olympic Games--it cuts across political and ideological frontiers and creates a ferment of excitement shared by a public scattered all over the planet.

But the development of sport as a worldwide phenomenon has only come about because of the increasing importance attached to one specific aspect of sport--top-flight competition--to the detriment of sport as a form of play and a means of education. It has also resulted from excessive concentration on a limited number of spectacular events, a process which has in turn exposed sport to ever-greater attention from business and the media.

In recent decades these trends have sometimes led to excesses and abuses: a worship of professionalization which can cause athletes to specialize at a very early age, become slaves to overloaded training and competition schedules, and fall prey to doping; wheeling and dealing inseparable from the development of spectator sport on a colossal scale; outbreaks of fanaticism and chauvinism that are sparked off by the hot-house pressures of competition and are used, in some cases irresponsibly, to give vent to social or national frustrations. …

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