Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

11. Sports and Leisure


Human Matrix

Mapping of Cultural resources

Cultural planning



11. Sport and Leisure: physical extension of movements and exercises

11.1 Sport venues

11.2 Cultural events e.g. Cultural Olympiade during Olympic Games

11.3 Cultural Competition e.g. Delphic Games


Sport and Culture – reconciling differences


11 Sports and Leisure

To be able to stretch and to relax the body is one thing; another matter is what David McNicoll says about all the attention being given to the body at the neglect not merely of the mind, but of the earth. As living conditions have changed, so also the habits. Where people used to do hard labor, nowadays they go jogging to stay fit. Many sit behind desks all day. No wonder when they end up with breathing problems due to being fat. Even then no one wishes to talk about that. In fashion there has emerged the beauty of those who gain steadily weight. Still it is a huge problem especially after school children got used to fast and junk food. There are efforts under way to counter it. Most of the time this means a lot more stress in free time because this is no longer treated in a normal but in a most serious way. The joggers are by now equipped with all sorts of measuring tools like astronauts who are monitored when on flight as to pulse, breathing regularlity etc.

Once the sports becomes looking that way, leisure takes on a different meaning. No longer relaxing beside the river on a lazy summer day is enough. Work has changed this outlook as to what would fill that time when not working but supposedly at leisure. Something needs to be done, seen or more so be experienced if to be told afterwards to the friends at the dinner party. In Canada the air that evening will be filled with exited voices telling each other on what canoe trip they have been on or what bicycle route they have been on and by the way what adventures they had along the way. Often the story begins with 'you cannot image how I felt when she fell off her bike and I had to go and rescue her'. The subject of the story, his wife, looks on as the conversation turns around that critical point what else could have been done if not he but she was in the same position of needing to rescue him. That is like re-examining the territory in which they were in at that moment of danger. By tapping into these experiences it becomes clear that there is one desire behind all of this, namely to overcome or to put behind all kinds of mutulations people either inflict upon themselves or is inflicted upon them in due course of living in a society which does not care if they exist or not.

If this phenomenon of 'leisure and sport' were to be examined from a different angle, it seems as if many turn their back to something or else wish to run away from meaningless forms of existence. Only possible escapes from boredom caused by routine and from a sense of having nothing to do in life does not yet explain sufficiently why people spend so much time and money on sports and leisure. The two are not necessarily combined but it underlines that people find things to do. It can be entailed already in watching from a safe place like a cafe someone springing on a horse over hurdles or in a more classical way sit in front of a television set to watch Nadal win the American Open in Flush Meadows for the first time.

Analysis can say this is due to the kind of distraction from more disturbing questions a person experiences when participating so much that he or she feels by being not merely attention, but by cheering on the favorite player, then he is going to win. It is like in a basketball game when a player of the opposite team steps up for a foul throw and the entire crowd gets on its feet and stretches out the arms to bewitch with the hands both the player and the ball in the hope the free throw will not go into the basket.

If a distraction, then there has to be also some kind of attraction. Otherwise people would not train day in, day out for the marathon. They would go out jogging every day. Once back they would pick up there, where they had left off with washing dishes, taking the children to school or complete writing the report at the office. Perhaps the attraction is to step out of everything and be by oneself. Since this type of activity is recognized by society, it is a method integrating oneself. The question is what difference it makes for someone running in a marathon compared to the one who would attend a rock festival and scream with thousand others as if going mad when the electric guitar wails and the star singer touches upon a ham string of emotions? Indeed what difference does it make to do the sportive or leisurly part? Aside from getting away from it all, there seems to be no convincing answer. Many explanations are possible.

Given the extension of tourism in this domain, there are all kinds of adventure sports which have become a booming business. At the same time, cities strive off such events when the marathon run is held. For instance, the yearly marathon in Berlin or New York attracts countless people with the organisers ensuring the entire route is freed from traffic for the day while along the route at certain places volunteers offer beverages and encouragement to the extent that it includes by now musical bands on elevated stands to keep up the atmosphere of excitement and joy. Indeed it does seem like an effort to get maximum joy out of life as much as it is the credo of the system to get maximum profit out of everything done. Everything coincides when money can be made and dreams, so the saying, become reality.

11.1 Sports venues

Cities have long lost many, too many natural spaces for children to grow up in. Equally exercises at school are not sufficient to give their bodies sufficient spaces to just run and climb trees. They no longer jump over brooks or adventure through wild nature as used to be the case when Mark Twain described the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Because of this loss parents have resorted to the peculiar phenomenon to demand the city builds adventure playgrounds. As a consequence more and more artificial spaces have been created to fulfill this basic need for physical exercises and for children to be able to play outside the houses.

By now, the entire world focuses on creating special places for all kinds of sports. In particular, the football stadium has become a lucrative sport venue which any city needs if to be ranked positively or higher up on the scale. This tendency is intensified as cities desire to hold major efforts like the Commonwealth Games or even the Olympics and if not that, then at least the World Football Cup. For all of these events many provisions have to be made. They give aside from the necessary or upgraded construction of the sport venues an opportunity to push ahead with other projects, including infrastructural ones ranging from building entirely new metro systems to revitalizing urban areas which have been neglected up to now.

The widespread cultivation of professional sports such as football, criquet, baseball, ice hockey, basketball has brought about a strategic vision on how to solicit and to train young talents. Given the high salaries paid to star footballers like Beckham there has developed as well a huge market. In a way these organisational strategies are perceived positively as they can take children and youth of the streets and of drugs. Sport is even in that form a way to discipline future generations to accept hard training methods but with the prospects of escaping poverty and a life in misery this lure of big money can be convincing even for the most sceptically inclined one. Interestingly enough in football the story starts often with boys kicking around a football in the streets of some run down neighborhood and ends with the groomed football star arriving in an open car to sign a new contract with a lucrative club like Real Madrid.

All these clubs have by now organised their fans and with it comes a host of other types of businesses. The Greek football team Olympiacos has extended this into a museum where fans are volunteers to show visitors around and who can tell in a most convincing way the success stories of the club. From selling all kinds of sport articles to special t-shirts bearing the number of the favorite football star, the mode of business has become encompassing. It is an open secrecy that these football clubs linked to a certain stadium and their fans wield considerable power and do have an influence not only upon politics, but upon today's understanding of culture. No where is this made more explicit than when at a table depicts the great personalities of German culture and includes in the end sport stars like Boris Becker, Steffi Graf or Michael Schumann.

Famous people in German culture - from Goethe to Steffi Graf                                            Poster in Takev School, Izmir, Turkey 2007

It is no suprise that in the meantime sport venues have become part and part of business packages by which investments and a thriving business with sport is meant. Naturally the overall sales pitch is that culture shall be the same as it was always or supposed to be. In reality the glossing over this difference between sport and culture brings culture ever close to mass entertainment and distraction.

The games played out in front of 80 000 watching 22 men or women kicking around a ball is a powerful way to teach all that a basic principle of life has to be to accept all losses as victories are to be savoured. In the United States this principle is applied in a most cruel way and brought to bear upon politics for the winner takes all. That makes the role the losser has to play all the more painful because he will end up crying very often in the shade of the stadium, that is outside and besides one of those naked cement pillars supporting the stands where the massive crowd roars as the victorius team scores yet another goal.

A long time ago there were debates in Greece if a local amateur football team was a part of culture and therefore could benefit from funds out of the cultural budget. That was at a time when sport and cultural worlds were not so enmeshed as they are now even though that would make forget how effective were the Olympic Games as means of propaganda for Hitler when held in Berlin 1936 and how shattered was that dream when terrorists took Israeli athletes hostage and then killed them. That took place during the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. At that time the organisational committee took the decision to let the Games continue. The justification given for the decision was a wish not to grant that victory to the terrorists as if stopping something to give time for the needed mourning was but a defeat. A similar but intentional mistake was made in the aftermath to 911. Only three days were given for showing remorse in public. Then President Bush went to Ground Zero and every rescue worker there started to shout 'USA, USA' as if there is no more difference between a football team and a nation going to war.

Sport venues change when thought is given about every Canadian city having outdoor ice hockey rings while every backyard in Manhattan can be considered a basketball training ground for future NBA all star players, Michael Jordan an example. The venue would be without these lead models nothing. There would be no chance given to escape both boredom and poverty. While the former may be attributed to the more or less well of areas of town, the latter reflects life in a poor city district. The chance to get out of the mind something deeply problematic by concentrating on the game ahead is already something everyone can savour. By dreaming big in order to finally make it that leads many to decide to enter a professional career in sports. Venues have therefore the reputation of being a way into the future. It can start with playing in the street as they are known the best kind of playground for future football stars. Many in Brazil or else in Napoli have made that experience including Maradona.

Could that be the reason why the question about sport venues is so perplexing when so little thought is given to what impact it will have on the general culture if only the business opportunities arising out such fake adventure can be seized upon as the next best opportunity? The one loss in time dimension leads to the next refusal to consider what impact upon culture all of these activities have. If sports focuses on the 'here and now', it needs as well a kind of forgetfulness so that the next game can be sold as being equally exciting because now the real winner shall be decided. Compared to what is the difference in any theatre between text and spoken interpretation thereof as working on a 'continuity of change', sport events have no text as their basis and therefore cannot show how they contribute how to cope with changes. Rather they are banned outside the stadium. As long as the spectacle continues, and here the steer fight evokes even more excitement, people seem to be satisfied. It is, however, clear from alone this description that sport events are used nowadays more to distract from the real problems awaiting everybody the moment they leave the stadium and make their way home. But inside there is being celebrated not the way the game is being played or who wins but the forgetfulness.

Waste of time and resources has been demonstrated by the City of Athens. It constructed so many venues but under much haste. This was done in order to be ready in time for the Games in August 2004. The real experience set in thereafter. Most of these venues are no longer used once the world media attention had vanished with the ending of the Games.

There is a matter of scale which is involved when building these football stadiums. One does not need to have read Adorno or some other philosopher to know when reference is made to mass culture as opposed to culture in a differentiated term. Naturally those who argue for a different linkage between culture and politics are silenced by those who justify this trend towards mass culture by saying, people want to go to football games. But that does not explain why the prime league in the United Kingdom have become venues where billons of money are spend to make the sport become ever more expensive and the triangle of fans, share holders and some business tycoon ready to take over plays itself out at the expense of any simple innocence connected with a father wishing to show his ten year old son on a Sunday afternoon what it is to see for once big times, big stars and all the lights lit up in a stadium when everyone chants the slogans of the home team.

It would be too much to say culture needs its own venue in sports to become true to itself. It is not so much a Beethoven piano recital being played in the football stadium as answer to Racialism amongst the hooligans ready to denounce any player on the field of different color than theirs. Those public relation tricks have been tried out to make the venue appear more innocent than what has been all along the education of the masses to accept the rule of the game even if there are so many manipulative techniques involved that the stamina of the true professional leaves any normal person wondering how many blows can a body take before the entire venue cracks under the strain of feet stomping on the floors of the tribunes in order to say ‘more, more’ of the same competition at the edge of real blood.

Indeed, sport venues are designed since the Roman arena for the purpose to make everything appear bloodless and therefore tamed while the tamed is meant to demonstrate the civilized process of a highly competitive world. This then leads to the question as to why certain venues are designed to appear not at all inviting but rather imposing just as when the real power lies not inside, on the football pitch, but what goes on outside and before or after the games insofar as spectators become thanks to the Internet so knowledgeable about everyone, that venues are by now extended into the virtual world and sports a kind of obsession closely linked to all kinds of gambling habits and hence forms of addiction. The latter is typically told when someone leaves the stadium disappointed from a game meant to be highly exciting but amounts to less, no more just kicking about a ball and thus the person swears never again to go to another game, but still does next Sunday for no other reason but just in case it might be this time an exciting game.

The real problem is that venues are designed to cover up the poverty of experience made in daily life while all the excitement inside, when together, cannot make forget that at home there await still unpaid bills and children wishing to go out with their fathers for a real game but besides parked cars and crowded streets there is really no place to go to in order to just kick around the ball. Those venues people dream about may be just as well on the moon. Maybe outer space research will focus in future more diligently in discovering new venues and then return to earth by showing new ways to transform the impossible into something possible.

11.2 Cultural events e.g. Cultural Olympiade during Olympic Games

Sometimes cultural events take place without the rest of society really noticing that this will mark their identity for years to come. It can be a group of poets meeting out of which shall emerge later not only a Nobel prize winner but an agenda that shall determine a new generation of writers and poets all expressing a certain sentiment and inclination. This is because culture grows out of something very small and insignificant until this side theme suddenly crosses over the main theme of the day and becomes the dominant one. Adorno called this crossing over ‘beautiful spots’. He wished to indicate that aesthetical reflections are based not necessarily knowing great art works but how small parts begin to articulate themselves by taking up the challenge with the main theme.

While cultural events are organised to accompany a major event then due to the thought while sport is a day time activity, important is to include other aspects of life during the evening. Thus while culture has moved to sports, the opposite movement from the sports to culture can be equally observed. The purpose of cultural events becomes one of covering sequences of time. Intended is to evoke a specific emotional texture on which can be based a particular sentiment e.g. Leonard Cohen singing his melancholic songs about Mary-Ann with her perfect body. Somehow it has become a need or else been observed that sport events by themselves will not do. They need to be tied together or given a bracket.

With the rise of hooliginism cultural events have been used indirectly as well as crowd control or as means to pacify what could become potentially an ugly crowd. If the football crowds during games held in Brussels 2000 can be remembered, they broke up all the good atmosphere created by the city being one of the nine European Capitals of Culture. The contrast between culturally induced events and sport fans seeking an outlet could not be stronger. Police on horses rode through retaurants to give chase to fans having gone wild. The usual drunkenness which prompts the throwing of beer bottles and then things get worse, it has become mandatory for every organiser to think about safety and therefore about primarily crowd control. In the meantime the police is learning along with new experts who can advise the organisers what precautionary measures have to be in place in order to avoid major accidents as was the case of the 'Love Parade' in Duisburg during the Essen / Ruhr 2010 celebrations. Then a crowd was struck by panic with everyone trying to escape through the only entry and exit route, a long tunnel. Panic has to be avoided at all costs if people are to reach safety i.e. when the crowds disperse and every person has space aorund him or her.

The concept of culture has undergone many alterations since it became the object of inquire, policy and manifestations. Rod Fisher’s book ‘In from the Margins’ showed how Europe had kept culture at the periphery but with many foreseeing the need for culture as something more substantial efforts by numerous organizations and individuals have been made to alter that. Still, the Cultural Committee of the European Parliament is considered to be something like a milk station through which the Intercity train merely thunders but never makes a stop. All major reports are delegated to the other committees, while the EU Constitutional Treaty proposed by the European Convention but then rejected by Holland and France foresaw culture as a matter of secondary competence compared to environment enjoying a primary competence level within the European Union. The priorities for culture are still not clear due to the vague concept of culture prevailing to date.

11.3 Culture and Olympics compared to Delphic Games

Since the linkage between culture and olympic events has not worked really well for always due to high costs culture is sacrificed in the end or else all the concentration does go into the opening and closing ceremony, there has emerged as reminder of the Ancient Games a competition of the arts. The Delphic Games have been revived by Christian Kirsch who has prompted organisers to think about not merely reviving special categories of the arts like story telling but also on how to maintain the immaterial components of cultures around the world. Organised like the Olympics according to countries and hence nations acting like filters which artists and forms of art are presented at the Delphic Games, it does introduce the notion of competition between the arts by calling them 'Games' in analogy to the Olympic Games. The associative meaning has been explained on the Website of the Delphic Games in following terms.

Delphi Games - head office in Berlin - has following official text in their brochure published for the Delphic Games in Jeju, South Korea:

"The International Delphic Council (IDC) was
founded in 1994 aiming to revive the Delphic
Games and by doing so, providing a unique
Forum for worldwide Arts and Cultures.
The Delphic Games are historically a peace
creating competition of the Arts. They took
place for about 1000 years in ancient Greece
one year prior to the Olympic Games. Six
months before the beginning of the Games the
organizers proclaimed the Delphic Peace
Accord. Thereby, Delphi became the neutral
crossroads for solving conflicts.
Nowadays, the competitions, presentations and
exhibitions offer an impressive programme
including traditional and contemporary arts.
Independent experts, acting as jurors and
observers, ensure professional appraisal criteria
and making sure that the talented artists will
benefit. Thus honouring their personal achieve -
ments as well as their teachers, caretakers and
Cultures do not enter into a competition but
showcase their respective arts. They learn from
each other by conversing, getting together and
treating each other with mutual respect.
“Arts and Cultures for our Children’s Future.”
This is going to be the motto of the III. Junior
Delphic Games 2007 in Baguio City/The
Philippines. After the first Junior Delphic
Games 1997 in Tbilisi/Georgia and 2003 in
Duesseldorf/Germany, The Philippines will be
the third country to host the Junior Delphic
The III. Delphic Games 2009 for adults will be
held in Jeju/Korea and therefore also in Asia.
As in the past events 2000 in Moscow/Russia
and 2005 in Kuching/Malaysia, the Games will
be held under the patronage of International
Institutions (The Council of Europe, UNESCO
and ASEAN States).
International decision makers are supporting
long term and higher education as well as the
events of the IDC. They play an active role for
peaceful coexistence of future generations
throughout the world. Participants and spectators
alike will also have the opportunity of a unique
adventure to stimulate the senses."

The competition takes place within six categories of artistic and cultural expressions:

Singing, Instrumental, Soloists, Orchestra & Choir

Dance, Theatre, Film, Photography

Lyric Poetry & Prose, Literature, Story Telling,
Rhetoric & Debates, Translation of Literature,

Painting & Sculpture, Arts & Crafts,
Installation, Graphic & Fashion Design

Television & Media, Internet & Computer Games,
Pedagogic & Didactics, Mediation

Landscape Design, City & Village Planning,
Preservation & Conservation of Buildings, Memorials, Monuments

For further information:
International Delphic Council
Head Office
Stiftsweg 1
13187 Berlin/Germany
Tel. (+49) 30/47 30 01 71
Fax (+49) 30/47 30 01 73


A key sentence which stands out is that 'cultures do not enter a competition as much as they showcase themselves and enter a conversation with other cultures'. Those participating at the Games are, therefore, representing their particular branch of culture which stands in turn for a collective expression of a whole society pitted between tradition and modernity against the need to seek continuity of its traditional reference point, namely what is the most important expression of all arts if not story telling and other forms requiring craftsmanship. If this is so then not any form of culture is being showcased but one which modernises traditional forms of expression in a way that they do not upset the peace. That can imply not questioning the power but serving it as example that under such governance culture still flourishes and can manifest itself as expression of the whole.

A conservative bent resides in all efforts to utilize ancient ideas for the sake of modernising the human spirit but shying away from taking up real issues such as the continuity of war despite the Games being held with the claim that they promote peace and understanding. They do in a certain way but within strict limitations of the system on the basis of which they function. That is why the role of political decision makers in staging these kinds of Games crucial to understand the purpose and why they find political support in a way that huge investments are made from which flow benefits, if not also an acquiescence to power.

11.4 Sport and Culture – reconciling  differences

Usually major interests are concerning in avoiding hooligism and vandalism when football games take place. Famous are the British fans which can easily go on a rowdy binge and attack fans from the other side and vice versa. A lot has to do with aggressions being build up before, during and after the game takes place. It is a massive influence upon the psyche of fans which have developed over the years specific cultures to underline their loyalty to their favorite club. All these behaviors pose a problem for those wishing to enjoy the games. What can constitute a positive crowd behavior to allow everyone enjoy the games has become a major preoccupation from managers of clubs to police psychologists. What is, however, not talked about in this overarching element of sport having become nearly identical with culture is how to reconcile differences between those who want to go to mass sports and those who have another understanding of culture?

A prime mistake being made nowadays is to confuse or to mix sports with culture; while for some it is a way to secure extra funds if some cultural events are added to a football match just like seeking to secure the status of a non profit organization, for others it figures sports are as important as culture and even culture so that the physical exercise of the body can be linked to a way of keeping the population healthy in an age when most people end up sitting behind their desk tops all day long. Naturally any health minister or sport official will want their activities to be integrated as much as possible into society and thereby receive extra funds. But it does make the money put aside for culture even tighter than what is already the case while the physical exercise is being overstressed compared to the real meanings of professional sports which were considered all along a part of mass culture. Consequently to use culture to pacify hooligans is one thing, to confuse the two domains of human activities another. Games by their very definition promote as well a mental skill known for following rules and abiding by them in order to determine who wins, who looses. If this becomes an absolute must, victory will be produced according to other rules, may that be doping in cycling or else in match fixing referees who have been bribed to favor the one team playing. Usually controversial penalties are considered to be anyhow a ‘gift’ especially if the game is a tight one. So the real obstruction to perception of what is happening out in the field is mass deception. It is the very opposite of any cultural event which seeks to differentiate a viewer’s perception of things and thereby questions rather than makes acceptance of reality into a prime intention. Moreover culture is based on such premises as stated by Michel Foucault who formulated following key insight: “we only speak with the other when we have no victories necessary”. Indeed, culture is about practical solidarity with the other so that the dialogue can begin. It is not about winning but each participant feeding into the common stream of humanity.

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