Every four years, during two weeks and a half, the entire world –figuratively speaking– takes a breather to see and learn about high-performance athletes competing with the best-of-the best, in search of new olympic –and world– records setting and all sort of sports feats.
High-performance sports, by nature, must be global in order to make meaningful comparisons. Every athlete’s dream is to stand out around the world. Hence, the global nature of sports in general and particularly of the olympics is beyond any doubt.
Sports are a near perfect example of human social activity at its best. Very few human endeavors are as universally extended as sports. Global sports is one of the few human activities where virtually everybody agrees on; that is, in the fundamental spirit behind it: open competition, open benchmarking, with widely communicated instantaneous results.
To a great degree, sports exemplify much of the best of the human spirit: teamwork, management by objectives, persistence, emotional equanimity, discipline, and so on. Very few human endeavors, if any other at all, personifies so well the noble spirit behind well understood competition. Naturally, among contenders, it is very pleasant to result a winner, particularly if that is in the top spot in any sports discipline. However, it is of great importance to also learn how to be a dignified loser, like in life in general. The top spots are just a handle. Not everybody is going to win; in fact, the majority will end up losing.
There is another rarely analyzed angle about global sports: the legal structure behind the sponsor organizations, be it the olympics (the International Olympic Committee –IOC) or soccer’s World Cup (the FIFA). For practical purposes, the nature of the sponsoring organizations in global sports are those of a private foundation, where there are no owners behind it. The amount of economic resources managed and deployed is enormous; revenues for tickets, advertising and transmission rights are in the billions, with a lot of entrepreneurship behind sports’ global competition. Hence, the paramount importance of observing the highest moral standards, and adhering to the best corporate governance practices. Yet, this is a relatively unexplored territory, that deserves deep research and some punctual lucid suggestions for improvement. To whom are the top decision makers of global sports organizations like the IOC and FIFA accountable to?
It is evident that there cannot be profit sharing among the non-existent shareholders; despite it, when dishonesty shows up, there are multiple –immoral– ways to gain enormous personal benefit if some top official is willing to. Full transparency and accountability to the worldwide society that finance those extraordinary endeavors must be sought after. The inevitable conflicts of interest can result in horrible situations -as have already occurred in the past– which cloud the otherwise one of the finest endeavors of mankind.
- First, globalization in sports is an uncontroversial multicentury-old reality, with increased visibility due to contemporary instantaneous and virtually omnipresent communication means.
- Second, as in any other human effort, not exempt with occasional controversies, the rules of the game are understood to near perfection by everybody.
- Third, global sports are so embedded in the human mindset, that they are considered an indispensable part of human activity; nobody would ever think otherwise.
- Fourth, given the three previous points, global sports is an excellent equalizer –at the very least from the equal opportunities perspective–, an excellent role model for globalization, in its wider conception. Global sports are a bright spot in human activity and thus an appropriate reminder to people all over the planet about the multiple benefits that well conducted globalization represents for mankind. Like everything else in life, if not appropriately done, any human endeavor can lead to conflict and even worse outcomes.
In my book, GLOBALIZATION, there is a subsection (in Section One) devoted to Globalization in sports.