- Truth, Integrity and Reconciliation
- A Delightful Day Talking About Football
- The ‘I’ Words: Integrity, Indignation and Ilinx
- Controlling the Narrative
- From extreme to mainstream (the rise of lifestyle sports)
- New wealth, new talent (economic growth and sports development in Asia)
- Everybody’s game (demographic, generational and cultural change)
- More than sport (attainment of health, community and overseas aid objectives through sport)
- A perfect fit (personalised sport and tailored training systems)
- Tracksuits to business suits (market pressures and new business models)
- More from less. This relates to the world’s depleting natural resources and increasing demand for those resources through economic and population growth. Coming decades will see a focus on resource use efficiency.
- A personal touch. Growth of the services sector of western economies is being followed by a second wave of innovation aimed at tailoring and targeting services.
- Divergent demographics. The populations of OECD countries are ageing and experiencing lifestyle and diet related health problems. At the same time there are high fertility rates and problems of not enough food for millions in poor countries.
- On the move. People are changing jobs and careers more often, moving house more often, commuting further to work and travelling around the world more often.
- i World. Everything in the natural world will have a digital counterpart. Computing power and memory storage are improving rapidly. Many more devices are getting connected to the internet.
- Asset price collapse
- Slowing Chinese economy
- Oil and gas price spikes
- Extreme climate change related weather
- Biodiversity loss
- Nanotechnology risks
In thinking about the future of Australian sport, I have been re-visiting a number of authors. These include:
George Orwell’s (1945) The Sporting Spirit.
Nearly all the sports practised nowadays are competitive. You play to win, and the game has little meaning unless you do your utmost to win. On the village green, where you pick up sides and no feeling of local patriotism is involved. it is possible to play simply for the fun and exercise: but as soon as the question of prestige arises, as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused.
Johan Huizinga and his writings on Homo Ludens.
One of his five characteristics of play is “play is connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained from it”. He argues that “civilization is, in its earliest phases, played. It does not come from play…it arises in and as play, and never leaves it”.
Roger Caillois and his discussion of Man, Play and Games. Callois presents a taxonomy of play and games and proposes that there are four play forms and two types of play. The forms are: agon (competition); alea (chance); mimicry (role playing); and ilinx (pursuit of vertigo and altering perception). A Wikipedia article on the 1961 translation of the 1958 French text points out that these four forms of play take place on a continuum of two types of play (ludus and paidia):
from ludus, structured activities with explicit rules (games), to paidia, unstructured and spontaneous activities (playfulness), although in human affairs the tendency is always to turn paidia into ludus, and that established rules are also subject to the pressures of paidia.
Caillois observes “It is this process of rule-forming and re-forming that may be used to account for the apparent instability of cultures”. He points out (in 1958) a tendency for a corruption of the values of play in everyday life.
John Hoberman‘s discussions of Sport and Political ideology (1984), Mortal Engines (1992) and Testosterone Dreams (2005). John Hoberan has had a significant impact on my thinking in the last thirty years. He prompted me to think deeply about sportive expressionism and dehumanisation at a time when I was actively involved in international sport, seeking to optimise performance through probabilistic models of success.
At times like this I return to Gregory Stone. Fifty-eight years ago, his paper, American sports: Play and display, was published in the Chicago Review (9: 83–100). In it he observes:
Play and dis-play are precariously balanced in sport, and, once that balance is upset, the whole character of sport in society may be affected. Furthermore, the spectacular element of sport may, as in the case of American professional wrestling, destroy the game. The rules cease to apply, and the “cheat” and the “spoilsport” replace the players.
A Future for Sport?
As my contribution to the discussions at the Cafe Scientifique, I will propose that for a sustainable future for Australian sport, we should:
- De-emphasise the acquisition of nation state status through sporting achievement and recognise the intrinsic value of play, games and sport.
- Accept the 2000 Olympics as the high-water mark for Australian sport (other than the professional football codes).
- Think very carefully about providing opportunities for late specialisation in sport.
- Accept that the quest for television coverage has commodified sport and recognise that we are responsible for this.
- Lament that despite all our efforts there is cheating in sport and we have hypokinetic diseases.
- Re-calibrate our thresholds of repugnance.
I think we should celebrate:
- Local communities
- Daily physical activity
- The Australian Sports Commission’s Essence of Australian Sport.
… and listen to some of the least privileged children in our society:
all local governments ensure that parks, playgrounds and public spaces are safe and welcoming for children, and free leisure and recreational activities are available, especially in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
Surf Life Saving (New South Wales Maritime, CC BY-NC 2.0)
The Rough Sea (Victoria Rachitzky, CC BY 2.0)
Geen hulp voor Giusto Cerutti (Natinaal Archief, No known copyright restrictions)
Primary school children, sports day (Anthea Sieveking, CC BY 2.0)