Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Sport and nationalism

I've been trying over the past month or so to try and fit all of the recent events in London, Paris, China and elsewhere into some kind of framework that makes sense. Having read Chinese and foreign commentators on this subject I felt myself inevitably graduating towards Orwell. Not 1984 mind, although the Chinese news coverage verges on it, but to what the true nature of nationalism is, how it differs from common-or-garden patriotism - if in fact there is any connection between the two at all. Anyway, I found this essay on the Dynamo Moscow visit to Britain in 1945. I had heard about the visit before, but had no idea of the controversy it stirred up - with allegations of cheating and un-sportsmanlike behaviour on both sides:

And how could it be otherwise? I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didn’t know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.

There cannot be much doubt that the whole thing is bound up with the rise of nationalism—that is, with the lunatic modern habit of identifying oneself with large power units and seeing everything in terms of competitive prestige.

I do not share George Orwell's pessimism about sporting events, but I definitely feel them to be all too true about this year's Olympics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Saw another non-native speaker leaving traces on Wang Xiaofeng's blog and came to have a look :) Thanks for nationalism thoughts; it's very much in the air now and needs all the picking-apart it can get.