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Where will sport and development be in 2025?

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Where will sport and development be in 2025?

"Either we keep on playing the same old song or we go from talk to walk". Dr Ben Weinberg looks at the future of the sector.

“Sport and Dev”, “Sport 4 Development”, “Development through Physical Activity”, “Sport for Social Change” or “Move to Improve”? Whatever we may call the notion of utilising sport and physical activity as a tool and door-opener in a socio-cultural-eco-health context in the year 2025, the fact of the matter is that the question of how it will have evolved is ultimately connected to the question of what the world will look like in eight years.  

First, this requires looking at developments in global governance and international relations. The growing tension between realist and liberalist assessments of how to deal with migration, climate change, hunger, terrorism, human rights and distribution of wealth (to name a few) defines the international development agenda. Some experts advocate for merging development with foreign affairs and defence policies, while others claim to get entirely rid of development programmes in light of their supposed inefficiency and self-reference. It is in this big picture in which sport as an enabler for international development will have to make a splash.

Second, what comes into play is the way in which societies and cultures will bend given the rapid incline of physical inactivity, sedentary lifestyles, individualisation and digitisation. Who knows whether by 2025 “E-Sport for Development” may have well established itself as a new tech approach to make the world a better place?

Third, the relations between sport and politics, civil society and business, play an eminent role with regards to the recognition and credibility of sport. Being treated as an exclusive commodity, neglected stepchild or holistic crosscutting tool depends heavily on how actors from all different sectors collaborate or interfere with each other.

Different scenarios could thus be imagined: either we keep on playing the same old song or we go from talk to walk, otherwise we will see even the evangelists losing their faith in the power of sport. Personally, I would therefore like to see a rediscovery of the traditional values of sport to set free its potential. This is most likely possible if we manage to install enabling environments and sensitise children and kids for a healthy lifestyle through fun-based play and education at the grassroots level and from bottom-up in one’s own community and with peers who act as role models.

Simultaneously, mega-commercialised systems have to get their homework done: doping violations, manipulations and widespread corruption in sport have led to a post-normative era, in which sport governing bodies and governments reducing sport to a mere soft-policy tool are seldom perceived as credible anymore. This does not mean that competition and “citius, altius, fortius” (the Olympic Games motto, meaning higher, faster, stronger) are to be considered obsolete, for all goes hand in hand, but to speak with Orwell, “There are quite enough real causes of trouble already, and we need not add to them by encouraging young men to kick each other on the shins amid the roars of infuriated spectators.”    

Dr Ben Weinberg
Ben is an independent scholar and writer focusing on the political, historical and cultural aspects of sport. He gains from his extensive experience as a policy advisor dealing with national governments, international organisations, civil society and business enterprises. He has gathered expertise in international development cooperation with a focus on social, educational, health and sport matters. Ben holds academic degrees from the German Sport University Cologne, University of Bonn and University College Cork. With distinct knowledge of national and international sport policy and international relations, he has been consulted as moderator, speaker and guest lecturer, and has made various publications.  

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Ben Weinberg

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Thursday, October 5, 2017 - 18:44