The State of play

I really hope that students who may be majoring in geography as part of their career paths don’t look to sport as an indicator or guide when it comes to “where is it” quizzes!

It seems that, for once and for all, we must concur that despite all the clichés and defensive outbursts of the past, whether you like it or not, politics do have their place to play and in most cases they actually dictate the “state of play” in the global sporting arena.

I refer of course to the call to move the Indian Premier League (IPL – cricket) from India to South Africa. Although still in its infancy, the IPL is without doubt India’s major sporting event and in its first year (2008) capacity crowds filled giant stadiums to watch the world’s best twenty - twenty “hit men” slug it out for unheard of fees and prize purses. This in a country with the world’s second largest population and the bulk living in squalor!

So what’s the big deal?

Politics have intervened big time in India and it is feared that their elections will disrupt the event etc. Well, aren’t we having our elections at about that time?

In terms of revenue, India’s loss is certainly South Africa’s gain. It just seems crazy to stage the Indian Premier league in South Africa.

Well it did seem crazy until we look back at the last “Dakar Rally” which was staged in Argentina!

Again, politics played their part with certain countries unable to guarantee a safe passage for the drivers in one of the world’s most gruelling events. A huge loss of revenue to those countries involved and Argentina, I am quite sure, are happy to at least pretend that Dakar is a place of fantasy tucked in the foothills somewhere in that country!

The world is an ever changing place where sport is ever evolving into a frenzy of entertainment and at all costs, the show will go on! With all that lies ahead, we may yet see global iconic events maintain this trend.

Imagine “Wimbledon” (tennis) being played in Croatia or the “US Masters” (Golf) being played in Australia. The Berlin Marathon may yet be run in Malaysia and the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race may not be out of place somewhere in the Atlantic!

For those die hards who are still not convinced that you can’t mix politics with sport, ask the poor old Dalai Lama why his Visa application was rejected by the beacon of democracy – “South Africa” - resulting in the cancellation of the high profile and highly anticipated peace conference. Reason: “It would take the focus off the FIFA World Cup!” Yeah right!

“This decision had nothing to do with our relationship with China whatsoever” said a high ranking South African spokesman who was very obviously well skilled in beating the lie detector test.

Perhaps this will be the next national sport to be played at national level? The colours blazer manufacturers would have a field day with orders in abundance!

As a hardened Liverpool Football Club supporter, on the basis that the Dalai Lama’s visa was bombed out, I have to question how the Manchester United Boss Sir Alex whats-his-name travels in and out so randomly. He must know people in high places, I guess, for surely his visits also take the focus off the FIFA World Cup?

I wonder if, when the welcoming committee greet him, they say “Howzit China?”

In terms of my job, I am off to the Nedbank SA Championships for Physically Disabled which are being staged in Port Elizabeth (South Africa I think?) early in April.

This is always exciting as it’s generally the time in the four year cycle when raw talent is exposed and those with great aspirations start staking their claim for the next Paralympic Games. Been there, done that and from both perspectives it’s a really fascinating process.

I wish all the participants the very best of luck in their quest to compete at the 2012 London Paralympic Games which will probably be staged in Japan!

April wraps up with the Nedbank Disabled Golf Open which is being staged at Rand Park Ridge in Johannesburg. Again, to the organisers and participants who have put so much into this area of sport that has shown such positive growth, good luck and “may the force be with you.”

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