Our flag might be the topic of much debate for some but when I see that black shirt, singlet, togs or lycra onesie with the silver fern I recognise a symbol that has etched its way into our cultural heritage through sport. But competitive sport can polarise people and I suppose being brought up with my parents coaching gymnastics and then squash it has formed an integral part of my identity.
But with the commonwealth games I feel there is an opportunity to perhaps reflect on the rich diversity of sport that spans gender, age, culture and disability. This is the place where lawn bowls boasts a team of youth and ‘experience’ blond locks beside silver haired foxes outwitting opponents with strategy, skill and determination. Where para swimmers sit in readiness alongside every other swimmer with nerves and anxiety matched with excitement and pride. For something other than rugby and netball to take centre stage in our collective sporting psyche. Watching athletes congratulate each other after giving it their all but perhaps not quite making it – that is the spirit of competition where regardless of the flag that is raised pushing each other to strive to the next level is what I enjoy.
The common wealth of sport is in danger of being lost in the market place of commercial and professional sport where athletes are brands, billboards and pawns in the global economy. Of course they train hard and at a personal level athletes have desires, hopes and dreams and still represent strong personal values. However the obsession and personal investment or association with the success of teams does boarder on sociopathic at times – but don’t try telling these people it is just a game!
So lets not get distracted by medal tables, yes they offer a comparison of relative success but they do not show the values and potential worth of that common and uniquely human drive to better ourselves and each other to be the best that we can be. This is an opportunity to join in appreciating the full spectrum of physical performance and see bodies move in extraordinary ways and I for one am enjoying watching people explode with joy, pride and ecstacy or collapse in sheer and utter pain and suffering.
But lets be honest if you are a kiwi – black and silver should always beat green and gold.