When politics pollutes sports
Posted on July 8th, 2019

Courtesy The New Indian Express

Over the last few years, a number of sporting events have been hijacked to propagate political messages.

As India went about clinically demolishing Sri Lanka in the final group game of the cricket World Cup on Sunday, some headlines were stolen by an airplane dragging a couple of banners across the Leeds skyline. The banners bore political messages pertaining to the Kashmir issue and mob lynching incidents in India. Correctly so, the BCCI was quick to register its protest saying security at the match was not tight.

Just a few days ago, when Pakistan was playing Afghanistan, ‘Justice for Balochistan’ message flew across the sky. The ICC rightly denounced it saying display of any political messages in the stadium was forbidden.

Over the last few years, a number of sporting events have been hijacked to propagate political messages. Of course, this is nothing new—Adolf Hitler had recognised the value of the Olympics as a propaganda tool as far back as 1936. The Olympics saw one of its most politically-charged moments in 1968 when American athletes Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised black-gloved fists during the US national anthem to protest the treatment of African Americans. Forty-eight years later, the same issue prompted Colin Kaepernick to take a knee during the national anthem at a National Football League (American football) game in the US. Cricket too witnessed such protests—Sri Lanka’s 1975 World Cup game against Australia saw a pitch invasion from activists protesting the treatment of Tamils in Lanka.

Regardless of the cause, mixing politics with sport takes away from the pure, undiluted essence of the latter. Sport is a celebration, of athletes and their great feats, of heart-warming stories of triumph and redemption or of heartbreaking near-misses. It leads its viewers into a surreal world, so far removed from the usual one, a world of irregular breathing patterns and missing heartbeats where feelings of euphoria and despair usually start at the highest end of the scale and then go even higher. Bringing politics into this world would only drag someone back to the mundaneness of reality. Something unfair indeed.

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