Of sport events and their celebrations

Shihab Sarkar     | Published: July 19, 2018 21:12:46 | Updated: July 20, 2018 21:24:32

The distinction of being a global festival could have gone to a social or cultural event. But it didn't. Of all areas, the reputation went to a sport event. Since 1930, the mega event of FIFA World Cup tournament has been enjoying the status of being the most widely attended occasion in the world. Over the decades it developed into a platform to showcase a country's football skill in excelling its competitors. But thanks to the enthusiasm and sensation of people sparked off by the event, it eventually emerged as a true world festival --- a football event occurring every 4 years.

The participants in modern Summer Olympic Games, also held every 4 years, are greater in number. It began with around 250 competitors in 1896. The last Olympics in 2016 had 11238 participants from 206 countries and territories. The Summer Olympics takes place for a fortnight. The World Cup Football continues for one month; the first World Cup held in Uruguay in 1930 was held for 17 days with 13 teams.  The Olympic events in the present times are enjoyed like the World Cup Football. It is the individual or a group's competitive excellence in athletic events which distinguishes the unique appeal of the Olympic. As a result, the Olympic Games aficionados are mostly the athletics lovers. Athletics is not prevalent in countries as widely as football. Despite the inclusion of games like football, boxing, wrestling etc, they do not receive as much importance as athletic items in the Summer Olympic Games.

In today's world, football is considered the most admired sport. The passion over football matches spans a global landscape, ranging from a tiny South Pacific island to a desert-country like Morocco in North Africa. Teenage boys in a post-harvest paddy field in a remote Bangladesh hamlet are driven by the same sporting spirit as their counterparts in summertime England. Football indeed transcends all regional barriers. It brings the disparate areas of the world on a common platform. Along with basking in the prestige generated by being a participant in the World Cup, the 32 contesting teams keep their respective countrymen's patriotic feelings alive as long as they remain in the rounds. Few other sport events can arouse the participants' nationalistic fervour as forcefully and in as spectacular style as the World Cup Football.  This year a Frenchman has hailed his national team with the compliment, "Your strength, our passion! Come on Les Bleus!" A Croat did not lag behind. He welcomed his country's football heroes with the majestic assertion, "Small country, big dreams." In the Russia World Cup Football, the nationalistic pride and consciousness was found fully present, though, like always, in a dormant state. On occasions, however, it flared up, thanks to the spontaneous fellow-feeling expressed for their teams by the spectators in the gallery. It applied more or less to all the teams representing 32 countries --- be they South Korea, Japan, Croatia or France. 

Despite being telecast live worldwide, lots of people skip the Olympic events.  In contrast, millions of viewers remain glued to the TV screen to watch as much World Cup matches as they can. When it comes to the venue --- this year the stadiums of Russia, including those in Moscow, it remains prepared to see some teams outshine others. As the tournament is essentially a fierce contest to win the Cup, displays of skill and outmaneuvring techniques remain integral to the event. Given the highly competitive nature of the World Cup (WC) Football, predictions in general do not come true. Forcing a legendary football giant into leaving the field by an emerging team, or a dark horse triumphantly staying in the arena till the quarter or semifinals is common with the tournament. Characteristically, football is a game filled with sharp ups and downs. Unexpected turns and twists continue to shadow it. As a corollary, the matches at times are overwhelmed by high pitches of suspense, thrill and emotional outpourings. Be they players, the coaches or the supporters --- nobody can remain free of the adrenaline rush. However, the beauty of the World Cup Football is few fail to keep their cool. Ugly noise made by foul-mouthed supporters and fans are rare in the World Cup Football nowadays. However there are exceptions, with outbreaks of violence occurring in the field and outside. The scenes of violence at Sao Paulo in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup and the trouble at Nuremberg during the 2006 tournament in Germany are the recent instances of mayhem during the WC. The spectre of riot involving alleged Russian hooligans and England supporters kept the local police on high alert for quite some time during the last 2018 Russia World Cup.

Notwithstanding these grey spots, the World Cup Football normally passes off in a mood of festivity. Due to its being a team-based sport combat, suspense and thrill     remain part of it. As seen in the Olympic Games, it also could not keep itself aloof from traditional fanfare comprising music, dance etc. Much like in the tradition of the Olympic Games, the opening and the closing ceremonies of the World Cup Football nowadays remain incomplete without a few items of performing arts like music and dance. In the ancient Olympics in Greek city-states, celebrations and revelry comprised a major segment of the Games. For a World Cup to go ahead successfully, the songs of Shakira or a dazzling spectacle of Samba were not too essential. But the performances added to the glitz and enjoyment of the football matches. A combination of performing arts and sport has distinguished the Olympics since its start in 776 BC. In the pre-Christ era, celebration and festivity would go hand in hand with the displays of heroic excellence. As part of the centuries-old tradition, the inaugural and closing ceremonies of the Olympics leave considerable space for pageantry and cultural celebrations.

The Olympics began as a ritualistic occasion arranged in honour of Zeus, the chief pagan deity in early Greece. Through the passage of time, the pagan ritual-dominant rites have disappeared. But an essential feature was left behind which comprised the ideals of peace and global fraternity. Except the gory Black September massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the history of the modern Summer Olympics is replete with the spirit of pure sportsmanship unspoiled by rancour or malevolence. So has been the World Cup Football since its opening in 1930.

A television advertisement broadcast during the World Cup Football 2018 highlights the universal bond created by football and its allied festivities. In the context of the worldwide emotion that goes alongside the game, football has indisputably emerged as the most popular sport event in the 20th-21st centuries. Unlike many other international events, football is credited with a noble attribute: it unites the world. If one views sport as a source of pure and instantaneous joy, it's physical fight or duel that deserves to be in focus first. Humankind set out its journey into the future making way through fierce competitions and battles. The dawning of enlightenment showed the futility of nurturing one's desire to destroy others. But due to its being inherent to humans, the urge of competition or contest could not be subdued. Discovering in it the strong presence of the universal instinct of survival, the wise Greeks retained and patronised the human competitiveness. Their inborn faculties of knowledge and wisdom helped the sport-related competitions emerge with their refined nature. Celebrations and jubilations added to their elegance and splendour. Thus, thanks to the magnificent world outlook of the classical-age Greeks, man got the gift of the Olympic Games and the other festive sport events. The World Cup Football is part of this undying tradition.  

Many people ask: why not a Music or Drama World Event? The answer is not that elusive. Most of the general people worldwide are down-to-earth. It's the extent of mundane supremacy which now decides excellence in many fields. In today's hostility-dominant context, ancient Greece seems to have descended from an alien world. Their infusion of festivity into prosaic sport in those otherwise spiteful times was one of the greatest gifts for mankind. Mixing battle with festivity befitted the age of classicism. Immersion in performing arts is considered characteristic of pacifism in the present times of hero worship. Pure celebration is also viewed as waste of time.




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