On 25 July, governments will meet in London to consider how sport can contribute to advancing vital development goals. The 6th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting will review how all types of games can address social and economic challenges and promote global public health.
But why is sport so important for national development? According to Aristle Tay, 18, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Singapore, it allows different generations to connect with one another and gives youths a sense of belonging.
Sport, while it has encompassed a wider spectrum of activities that are growing in complexity over the centuries, is still pretty much the jolly good old play (and possibly, work for some) that we yearn for and love so much.
Sports, throughout the annals of history, have continued to grace us with the same multifarious boons: a favourable work-life balance, solid social stability, a strong identity, and most crucially, inspiration for us to hope and dream further.
These very blessings that sports have bestowed upon us are what any nation that wishes to progress demands. Therefore, it could be seen that sports aid in the betterment of a society through the assets it offers. However, in a bid to do justice to this question, how sports can actually help national development really depends on the context.
Just try to imagine a society without work-life balance. People would definitely lead miserable lives. That is where sports come in. They are an amalgamation of human creativity and curiosity. Sports, with their many thrills and excitements, are able to bring about huge amounts of joy, laughter and importantly, relaxation, into our often tense lives.
As evidenced by recent research papers by intellectuals like Paul J. Zingg, sports have a direct connection in a community’s standard of living, a key goal in every nation’s development. This could be seen in communities like the ancient Egyptians where the inception of sports like swimming, rowing and shooting induced meaning into their lives, increasing their standard of living. Hence, with the increase of a society’s standard of living through sports, it could be said that one way that sports could help national development is by offering a favourable work-life balance.
Sports, as a scan of human history, have also served as a fundamental, yet crucial cornerstone in building communities. The art and beauty that lies in sports, with which humans have come to fall so deeply in love, is capable of instilling a visceral sense of camaraderie and a timeless sense of solidarity across people of different races and creeds in a community. This magical sensation in sports, as a result, has united people together and hence forms a deterministic factor in ensuring social stability, one that is critical to any nation’s development.
In recent times, through surveys conducted by the World Sports Alliance and several other related NGOs, sports have been determined to have the potential to allow individuals to respect each other equally with pre-set universal rules, allowing them to build unity among themselves. In Brazil, soccer, a favourite game there, has prompted people of different classes and wealth to blend and get closer together. It has since been successful in promoting unity among those groups. Therefore, since sports are able to strengthen the fabric of a society, they could definitely help in national development through the offering of social stability.
Presently, young nations in the world, or at least my nation, are facing a surge in youths that simply lack an identity. Although it is next to being insignificant for some circles, it has been causing national leaders sleepless nights. They know that youths that are curtailed from a sense of rootedness in their nations will fail to strive for their nation’s common cause, detrimental to their nation’s development. Sports, especially traditional sports, could come to the rescue.
Sports are able to provide the moral ballast, the emotional anchor that could allow these adolescents to readjust or focus their moral compass. By playing the very traditional sports of their country, they could find their true narratives in their homeland by going through the very sports that the previous generation has rejoiced in. As presented by the European Traditional Sports and Games Association, traditional sports are able to allow people to connect with older generations and hence, as a result, gain understanding of their true identities.
In my country, youths are able to connect with previous generations and gain a sense of belonging while playing traditional sports like Sepak Takraw and the Five Stones. Sports, being able to provide young nations with a sense of rootedness, have thus helped in national development through the blessing of an identity.
You have seen it on the news. You have heard it on the radio. And if you are fortunate enough, you have definitely experienced it live. Mega sporting events like the highly-acclaimed FIFA World Cup and the renowned Olympics Games. Nations competing for prominence within the ranks of an ever-expanding list of global cities have leveraged on sports as an obligatory rite of passage in declaring their economic prowess and bolstering their international reputation. Sports, in this case, have been utilised by nations to achieve international recognition, one of the goals in any nation’s national development.
Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, in one of his speeches, illustrated the close relationship between sports and international recognition. Countries like China which had hosted the Beijing Olympics or, even the United Kingdom which will be hosting the London Olympics in a matter of days are just some of the countries that will agree with Jacques Rogge on this; that sports have indeed paramount importance in allowing a country to obtain worldwide status. Hence, sports, able to present a country with a standing on the global stage, have thus helped in national development through the gift of international recognition.
When was the last time you enjoyed and embraced sports? There is some magic in sports that we cannot deny. Something that reaches deep within our souls and make us proclaim before others that we live in the every moment. Sport, in its seriously unique context, is able to generate fresh inspiration within us. It gives us renewed and refreshed hopes and dreams that make any community one that is aspirant and exceptionally motivated.
The rest is clear. Nothing could ever stop a nation that is flourishing with dreams and hopes from achieving their goals and ambitions. The various international sporting federations could testify that sports are able to bring people to greater heights. They can help in national development by imparting much-needed inspiration in a society.
I cannot possibly imagine a nation in this world that would not want to strive for progress, for its people to lead fine and comfortable lives. However, as I wrote the very previous sentence, a good number of countries came up in my mind. The first one was no other than the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. While I have argued earlier in this essay on the promising fortunes that sports can grace upon us, it is however only right that I mention that the impact of sports on national development is, I believe, limited. It is limited because there are some national leaders across the world that failed to take into account of their people’s needs. It is limited because there are some high ranking elites that choose to embrace greed and as a result, isolate their masses from basic necessities, lest talk about enjoying sports.
I should end this piece of writing as I had started it. How sport can actually help national development first relies on whether national leaders are willing to allow their people to relish in the contributions arising from sports. If these leaders are able to let their people embrace sports, I am sure that sport could definitely direct a nation in achieving progress.
I’m an 18-year-old male Chinese who loves astronomy, adventurous challenges, running, and most of all, interacting with youths all around the world! Presently serving my two-year National Service in the Singapore Armed Forces.
I have always held the belief that arguments and debates, while meant to drive out flaws in our opinions, should serve to bind us together and not separate us. For united we stand, divided we fall.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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