"The difference between machinery and the human body is unyielding. The former wears out with use, while the latter is perfected in motion. "
Prof. Bruno Grandi, FIG President
THE IMPORTANCE OF SPORTS FOR OUR LIFESTYLE.
The expression “Sport for All” can take on different meanings and, thus, there exist different interpretations with regard to its contents, its development and its goals.
At any rate, this expression also encompasses the elements which are called strategies in today's most industrialized countries and which aim at making sports accessible to everyone.
In all countries, the importance of sport as source of physical well-being and also as an element which can help to combat socio-cultural misbalances is growing day by day. The IOC has understood this and is spreading this message to make the peoples of the world conscious of the fact that sport may become an integral part of the custom and the habits of every nation.
When a phenomenon such as sport gains importance in the economic world as well as in the field of international politics, it has become an element of everyday life.
In order to gain a better understanding of what is meant by 'Sport for All', we will first analyse the influence of certain areas of today's and tomorrow's life on the development of this form of sport.
The most significant influences can be attributed to:
- changes on how we spend our leisure time;
- increase in consciousness that we have gained as individuals;
- certain very specific culture forms;
- a contrast between social interaction and consumer behaviour
- the necessity to affirm a sports culture which is also based on aesthetics
Obviously, the correlation between the demands of modern life and the development of “Sport for All” cannot be established automatically. This correlation, however, enables us to set the basis for collaboration between the organisers of sports activities at the basis (of the sports movement) such as the Olympic Committee or political institutions.
Within this field of collaboration, they can come together to formulate strategies which will promote the goal of making sports accessible to everyone.
Changes in the social organisation of leisure time.
The phenomenon which undoubtedly has the greatest influence on the growing demand for sports practice is certainly due to the new organisation of time in our social life.
There are two specific aspects regarding this matter:
- the first involves the reduction of working hours per day or working days per year,
- the second refers to the new organisation of time which has been made possible by introducing new technologies.
As a consequence of this development, people have more time for cultural or leisure activities and this per year or even for the entire life. We are presently experiencing a progressive improvement of our quality of life which means that our lives are prolonged.
The sports movement is one factor among others which contributes to prolonging life in a healthy way.
The reduction in certain illnesses, which are caused by excessive stress in an over-mechanised environment, can only be achieved by the learning of healthy behaviour patterns, a process that should already begin in childhood.
A greater spiritual and physical awareness
From the eighties on, sociologists saw the new awareness movement as a trend that would fundamentally change peoples' life-styles.
The search for an original image of one’s self, which stands in total contrast to the phenomenon of globalisation, was reinforced by man's growing need to affirm and emphasize his individuality.
This social development stands in sharp contrast to yesterday's collectivism.
We do not intend to penetrate too far into the field of sociological analysis but we want to point out certain consequences of this general increase in individual awareness with regard to “Sport for All”.
The above mentioned trend or movement expressed itself in many ways, the most significant being that greater attention is being paid to one’s self and one’s physical awareness.
All this has, of course, caused a rising interest in physiotherapy and in cosmetic products on which a lot of money is spent. On the other hand, the interest for sports activities has equally surged a great deal.
This surge of interest in sport cannot merely be attributed to its importance for good physical condition: nowadays, it is a widely recognised fact that sport can also be a source for psychological well-being (thus both body and mind are improved by sport).
The significance of specialised sport cultures
This demand and need to practice sport connected to the phenomenon of self-awareness corresponds to a type of sport which can be practiced by everyone no matter how old or how fit he or she is, in other words the search for a “Sport for All” is going on.
Nevertheless, this motto is too vague and general which is true for many expressions of our modern language. Therefore, “Sport for All” is a paraphrasing and does not really capture the meaning or explain what exactly we are trying to say.
One must clearly oppose the conception that “Sport for All” is merely a marginal phenomenon.
This concept does not want to stand as a contrast to a sports discipline as such. Sport can be practised in many different kinds of way and according to many different philosophies. In the end, we are still talking about one and the same thing: sport!
Sport itself is accessible to everyone. A difference in the various types and levels of sport is possible, if we consider the aspect of materials only. In this case, however, we have to admit that there are very many different types of sport which can be practised.
In this context for example, we can point out the difference that exists between sports activities within the framework of education, and sports practised by an athlete as preparation for a competition such as the Olympics or our World Championships.
Most sport activities are not oriented towards the goal of competition; they may simply be preparation for a competition, they may not correspond to the competition standards or they might just be practised for fun.
This minute definition and differentiation of the various sports activities is not given for semantic purposes. However, there must be an understanding of the different levels at which sport can be practised, because this will have very concrete consequences on the development of sport in the society of the future.
The idea that sport really is 'for everyone' must determine the strategies of the sport movement at the basis.
Thus, at first, the contents of numerous disciplines must be defined in an original way, which means the contents of those disciplines which millions of people can practise who are not interested in participating in competitions. The fact that we distinguish between sport preparing someone for a competition, sport for youth as well as amateur sport does in no way imply that we are underestimating the value of trainers who devote themselves to working with non-professional sportsmen and women.
The different specific sport disciplines which are accessible to everyone originate from the principal stem of competition sport, but each one of them represents a strategic element for the individual associations at the basis of the sports movement where the activity is organised.
The significance of competence in the relationship between the individuals and the social system is an important factor for the development of today's industrialised societies.
No one would have confidence in a teacher if he or she had to expect the teacher's performance to be superficial or incomplete. Nobody would go to a swimming pool or a gym if he or she had doubts on whether the technician who built it understands something about sport- mototricity processes and has a clear idea of what the result must look like.
The question of confidence in organised systems is one of the main problems in the 21st century: the above mentioned relationship between the teacher and the pupil only seems like a simple problem of trusting another person, but the main issue is about confidence in the system that the teacher merely represents.
Developing a specific sports culture, which every one of us can practice, not only improves the image and the performance of the sports teacher or trainer, but is also crucial for the sports associations which are mainly responsible for the process of creating confidence.
The contrast between social interaction and consumer behaviour
This last point takes into consideration that nowadays many sports clubs of the so-called basis regroup different types of sports ranging from sports education to competitive and amateur sport. So if we intend to promote sport for everyone, we must equally promote the core of the sports club with its basis.
In order to ensure that the sports association affiliated to the FIG is the main provider for a whole range of sports activities, one must discard the idea that the concept “Sport for All” stands as the sole supplier on the fitness market.
One does not need an organisational structure to sell physical 'fitness'. It is the same as with tanning, for which you do not need an organisation: it is enough to simply go to the beach in summer (where it is free of charge) or to a solarium in winter (where you pay).
Equally, sport should not be reduced to jogging in the park or to doing simple exercises in a gym.
The fact that the jogging equipment industry is one of the most flourishing among the producers of sport accessories shows that it cannot be the economic aspect which determines the strategies of the sports associations.
Developing the sports movement of the basis is opposed to seeing sport as a consumer item, as something you can do all by yourself at home in your own private little gym, isolated and far removed from any type of socialising event.
The demand for an organisation of sports activities and thus for associations and clubs is created when you combine the desire for fitness with the striving for social interaction and you pursue both goals simultaneously.
Consequently, people will join a sports club in order to find a context in which they can practise and share their favourite sport with others.
It is frequently so that you move from 'practising together to organising together'. Sport for all thus becomes the main source that supplies the world of sport with volunteers and promotes a social 'growing-together'.
Unfortunately many sports associations are losing their significance and their role with regard to this goal. “Sport for All” has a crucial function in so far as it supports the growing need for social ties, so that society at large can profit from a stronger social cohesion.
Affirming a sports culture which is also based on aesthetics
There exists, in our age especially, still another argument for developing 'Sport for All': the importance of aesthetics at the end of our modern age.
Aesthetics is becoming more and more important for all of us. The objects we use in our daily lives have reached a very high degree of technical perfection and thus, having achieved functional perfection, we are now striving to improve the way they look and their shape, in short: their aesthetic aspect (Domenico de Masi).
We are referring to aesthetics, the search for form, in this context because it can play an essential role for the specific cultures of ’Sport for All'.
It is logical and correct to assume that the difference between 'Sport for All' and competition sports lies in the different conception of success. When one refers to different evaluations and levels of competence (with regard to the correct execution) one does not mean the slackening of rules or reduction of measures; this might be implied but it does not exhaust the possibility of differentiating between the two kinds of sport.
A sport can be accessible to everyone even if it does not involve reducing the size of the fields or making the equipment lighter for the amateurs. It is more important to distinguish between the different levels that exist with regard to the value of the performance than to distinguish between heavier or lighter equipment. It is a known fact that many sports are evaluated on the basis of objective standards such as velocity, height or distance, but this is not always so.
In the case of several sports, there exist other evaluation criteria, namely those which honour the mastering of the form and the aesthetic perfection.
When learning a specific sports discipline, the 'amateur' will at first take the correctness of the movements as a yardstick to evaluate his attempts. Without this standard he cannot improve his expression. Consequently, 'Sports for All' – in addition to being practised for fun - can manifest itself in the search for formal improvement (gestural aesthetics of sport). After all, the performance and the skill of a competition sportsman or woman can never be achieved by the amateur.
If things were seen in this light, the person practising “Sport for All” would not be out rightly condemned for the mediocrity of his or her attempts but would rather be able to view his sport experience as striving for a higher degree of formal perfection and aesthetics.
What a normal person wants in sport is not a normal consumer item. Physical and psychological well-being, social contacts, and the cognitive enrichment gained by the sports practice are the elements which the head of a sports association must use to build up his offer of “Sport for All”.
The sports movement as a whole should concentrate on setting up a rich framework for a specialised sports culture and establishing a climate of confidence which, in return, will positively shape the socialisation processes.
A sports movement formulates the strategies for 'Sport for All' in order to create the image of this kind of sport in the eyes of those who will practice it. Sport is thus creating itself its own operational environment according to a concept which says that we ourselves create the environment we live in later on (Karl Weick).
For this reason, it is important to pay attention to how 'Sports for All' is defined and what it contains, which processes we mean when we are talking about it.
The main idea is that “Sport for All” is not something which is totally new in our industrialised world, but rather an ancient guarantor for the invisible motives of human behaviour.
Just like in old Olympia!
FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DE GYMNASTIQUE
Prof. Bruno GRANDI, President