With the general election on Thursday, the main focus has been about the NHS, leadership and Brexit. It’s sometimes difficult to hear about some of the peripheral policies and the impact they have. Sport in particular has played a massive role in politics; it has shaped governments and brought about the end to regimes throughout history.
In recent times it has helped bring to light the civil rights movement in America, with Muhammad Ali on the front of campaign, a world champion not being allowed to eat in the same restaurant as others because of his skin colour. Later going to jail for his refusal to fight in the Vietnamese war, stating ‘So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.’ Here was a man that used his sporting prowess to bring to the forefront the oppression of black people in the US; a struggle still very much existent today.
A sporting boycott as well as an economic and academic one brought about an end to apartheid in South Africa, with the freedom and later inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president in 1994. It was through rescinded invitations to Olympics and a moratorium on sporting tours, that helped bring about democracy in the former British colony. Sport has the ability to galvanise nations, and their people in a way that nothing else can; take what happened on Christmas Day in 1914, in the foundations of the great war a game of football broke out, with the Tommy’s and Jerry’s returning to trench war a day later.
A little closer to home, the most iconic moment of the suffragettes movement was when Emily Davison threw herself in front of the kings horse at the Epsom derby. This incident was a catalyst to getting women the vote. Sport and politics are intertwined throughout history. In wake of the expenses scandal, It has been hard for our politicians to connect with the everyday person and they are exposing themselves to sporting events in order to give the perception that they are of the people and for the people. However this doesn’t always go to plan, demonstrated brilliantly in the build up to the 2015 general election with the then prime minister in confusion over which claret and blue team his loyalties lay with.
Two of my passions in life are politics and sport and both can have such a profound impact on people. When people say ‘what’s the point in voting?’ Or ‘it won’t make a difference’ it frustrates me. Politics shapes the world. So I ask of you, whoever you vote for, exercise the right that less than 50% of the world population have the right to do.
By Lawrence Uttley (Sport Participation Development Officer)