2012 is the great summer of sport—the greatest since the last great summer of sport. Which was probably last summer or the summer before. In fact, the really unusual thing these days would be a summer without much sport. And forget the back page, it’s front page stuff nowadays, writes Paul Bickley.
Come to think of it, it’s all over the business pages and social affairs columns too. London 2012—the “regeneration games” that will “inspire a generation” is another example in a long line of examples where sport is being pressed into service for wider political, economic and social agendas. We have come to believe that sport will make us healthy and wealthy—even good and peaceful.
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…It’s tempting to think that we’re not pulling the right levers, or to argue that sport policy needs to change. We should avoid that temptation. What we need is a deeper appreciation of what sport is and what it can (and can’t) do. Philosophers of sport have rightly complained when societies have tried to twist sport to ulterior motives, be that economic growth, moral improvement, or a healthy society. Its affective power makes it appealing for politicians, and easier to believe inflated claims. But its effective power, its power to achieve things, is much more limited than we like to think. All we succeed in doing, in the end, is making sport less fun than it should be.
In this summer of sport, the best thing we can do for sport is call out those who want to use it to change society or rebuild the economy, and then enjoy it for what it is—entirely unnecessary.