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Run for your life

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." 1 Corinthians 9.24

The Commonwealth Games is proud of its reputation as "the friendly games". On the whole, those currently underway in Birmingham are upholding that tradition. Integrating the para-events with those of fully-able bodied athletes is working well, as are the hosts' efforts to promote the equality, inclusiveness and multi-culturalism of their city. Yet lurking behind the daily analysis and ever-present medals' table is that, as with professional sport, an obsession with winning in emerging.

The desire for victory is, of course, what drives sport at all levels. Yet there is an even more important principle associated with sport - and many other human endeavours - and that is participation. There are many reasons but I shall deal with two only here.

First without the participation of those who will not emerge victorious there can be no competition. And, secondly, for every winner who dominates their particular endeavour - whether sport or politics or music or art - there will be countless others whose willingness to participate not only enhances the competition but produces a healthier, more active and engaged society in the process.

Commentators inform us that investment in sport is increasingly directed to those in which we already excel and which enjoy a high profile and therefore offer a higher financial return for success. If true, such a policy will render sport increasingly elitist and selective, elbowing out minority pursuits and producing individual celebrities rather than healthy communities.

When St Paul uses the analogy of a competitive athlete to encourage Christians to live faithfully, he has in mind the traditional qualities of competitive sport - hard work and fair play and mutual respect - not the ruthlessness of the jungle, where the governing principle is kill or be killed!



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