Sports Can Break Down Barriers

Tom - Syracuse, New York
Entered on September 3, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: community, sports

There is no right way to repair relationships and end opposition between two sides. Some think diplomacy is the best method whereas others believe in violence. Truthfully, I do not have an opinion on which technique works best. However, I do believe that creating a common bond between two opposing sides is an essential step to ultimately improving a relationship. You may think that certain groups of people have nothing in common and that their relationships are impossible to repair but I wholeheartedly disagree. There is one thing that every country and billions of people participate in every day and that is sports. Sport has the unique ability of being able to bring two opposing sides together and to form a common bond that can improve relations as well as create new friendships.

Throughout history, athletic competition has shown the unique ability to create peace between opposing nations. During the most recent Olympic Games this summer, both Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia were edging towards war. The opposition between the two countries had reached an all-time high but an unlikely event in the Olympics was able to bring temporary relief and peace to the ongoing fight. In the women’s 10-meter air pistol competition, both a woman from Georgia and Russia finished with a medal. After the competition, Russian silver medalist, Natalia Paderina, stood on the same podium as Nino Salukvadze, the bronze medalist from Georgia and the two embraced one another. The idea of two individuals from Russia and Georgia showing compassion towards one another was unheard of (Longman, 2008). Although this event did not directly stop the threat of war, it gave people hope on both sides that their two countries could peacefully co-exist. Another example of sport improving the relations between two countries is when the USA and China used ping pong to create peace. In 1971, the Chinese government invited the US Table Tennis Team to China to compete in a number of exhibition matches as well as tour the country. This was the first time an American Sports Delegation stepped foot in China since 1949, a gap of over twenty years (Lee, 2008). The visit by the table tennis team temporarily improved relations between the two countries and paved the way for President Richard Nixon’s trip to China the very next year. In both of these cases sport was able to bring two countries together who had very poor relationships because of their differing beliefs.

Sport also has the potential to improve relationships on a personal level. Throughout my entire life my relationship with my father has been up and down. I love my father very much but there are times when I feel like we have nothing in common and have very little to talk about. However, when it comes to sports we can talk for hours. Some of my best memories from my childhood are going to Red Sox and Patriots games with my Dad on the weekends. We both are extremely passionate for Boston sports so it gives us a reason to be with one another. Without sports I feel as though my relationship with my father would suffer greatly.

Individual sporting events also have the ability to create bonds amongst people with different opinions and beliefs. The best example I can think of is when my good friend was recently at the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium this summer. My friend is a diehard Boston Red Sox fan and he was completely surrounded by Yankees fans who he considers to be natural enemies. In the first round of the derby, Josh Hamilton set a record by hitting twenty-eight home runs, a spectacular record that is unlikely to be broken anytime soon. When this record breaking performance was occurring a Yankee fan turned to my friend and said “I do not care if you are a Boston fan, let’s enjoy this moment together.” A Yankee fan making peace with a Red Sox fan is a rare occurrence but because there was such an amazing sporting moment happening at the time the two fans were able to put their past behind them and become friends. My friend has stayed in contact with the Yankee fan and now the two have the utmost respect for one another despite their differences.

I believe there are few things in this world that can accomplish what sports can do in terms of creating a bond between two conflicting sides. Everywhere in the world sports are played and most people are familiar with them whether it is fencing, basketball, or water polo. Sharing an interest in something automatically creates a bond and that bond can improve relationships or create new ones as well.