Sport is a major part of the culture of many nations. Even if for some people it could be simply one of the many pieces of our society, for others it is the backbone of their lives, seen as a religious faith and an undeniable passion. Sport has an incredible power over crowds, but why’s this? Because of History. Sport has frequently been the protagonist of plenty of events that changed the past.
During World War Two, in Italy, the great biker, Gino Bartali, risked his own life to save nearly 800 Italian Jews. The bishop of Florence entrusted him with the mission of delivering fake documents to the hiding Jews while “training” back and forth between Assisi and Florence with his bike. He wasn’t just one of the best Italian bikers, but he became a symbol of justice and courage. Our grandparents loved him for his sense of duty, which was immensely shown during this particular event that links sport and history.
However, the power held by sport was also well known by the extremist leaders that used it for their purposes. For example, Mussolini,
during the 1938 Football World Cup, sent a telegram to the Azzurri’s locker room that said “win or die”, a deplorably known fascist slogan. This was a clear sign that sport was used to show the strength of a country and also its unity.
Two years later, Hitler tried to do the same, using the Berlin Olympics as Nazi propaganda. However, a black American athlete, Jesse Owens, won 4 gold medals in athletics, at the expense of Hitler’s ideals and of the American racists. His victories made an impact on people, demonstrating that there was no “superior race”. His story is narrated in the film “Race”, and like this, many other sporting events have their social importance told thanks to cinematography.
What about nowadays?
A similar idea to Hitler’s came to the mind of the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, as he used the 2018 Winter Olympics to fake peace with South Korea, letting northern and southern athletes
compete for the same nation, showing an entirely distorted frame of his regime. Sadly, another rotten use of sport that people rapidly recognized. Olympics are an important event of union between nations, athletes compete against each other for their country but they do this together, showing incredible friendships even if they are from completely different continents. It’s an occasion to show real peace and kindness, not fake intentions and toxic politics.
Sport can become the point of union of a nation and people easily find their symbols in the names of many athletes: Portuguese are proud of Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentinians of Messi, Italians of Valentino Rossi, English of Lewis Hamilton and thousands more could be added. But sometimes it isn’t just a matter of pride because of victories, but something deeper, connected with the fears of their country. For example, the NBA Turkish player, Enes Kanter, after the failed coup d’état in Turkey, to unseat Erdogan’s oppressive government, attacked the Turkish Premier on social media. From this moment, he has been receiving death menaces from Erdogan’s supporters and his father disclaims him. But Kanter
has become a spokesman, as he tells in an interview, of “more than 100.000 people who are prisoners in Turkey, including professors, judges, lawyers, journalists, activists, minors and commoners whose only crime is to disagree with Erdogan”. He states that for a Turkish defending real democracy means risking life.
Sport is part of our history, a huge piece of our social life and a way to unite nations, both internally and externally. It’s duty of people who love it to recognize when it is used poorly and to increment hate and violence for the benefits of just a few governors or, sadly, of sport companies themselves. We love sport because it connects us, not because it divides, and we want it to write marvellous pages of our history as it did.
With the hope to make Tokyo 2021 come true!