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Annual General Meeting of the Sports Foundation

Issue date: 
Monday, 14 November 1983
The Hon Sir David Stuart Beattie, GCMG, GCVO, QSO, QC

The first biological lesson of history is that life is competition. Competition is not only the life of trade, it is the trade of life - peaceful when food and shelter abounds, violent when the mouths outrun the food. Animals eat one another without qualm; civilised men consume one another by using the process of law. And, undoubtedly, sport is competition.

I imagine that it would be very hard for any of this distinguished company to picture a world in which sport and games played no part because everyone here would, I believe, acknowledge the part that sport and games have played in their lives. It is part of New Zealand's history and development. There is a healing and strengthening effect with games: sport forms character - teaches discipline and self-control and should teach a gracious acceptance of defeat.

In my opinion, a great deal of what is likely to happen to sport in the 80s will be fashioned by the occurrences of the 70s. It was a momentous decade - the years which embraced the Munich massacre, the Montreal boycott, Kerry Packer confronting cricket's establishment and the incomparable Mahommed Ali.

The 80s may well be a period of player-power with the participants getting younger and more volatile, less amenable to discipline. (The draft of this address was written before last week's Wimbledon.)

Administrators may well be more frustrated in the continuing collision between themselves and players.

As with so many other aspects of rapid technological advances, I believe electronics will affect many games. I have read, for example, that tennis is already trying out service and base lines wired to record the plop of the ball as a bleep on a video screen. No doubt as Alan Hubbard writes, cricketers' pads (whether red, white or blue) can be similarly rigged to save the umpire having to give and lbw decision and perhaps by then Lords will be ankle deep in Astroturf.

But realistically, sport will be used more and more for the manufacturer's message and sponsorships will increase.

What we should guard against in my opinion is producing a new generation that does not view sport live.

Different nations had their impact on sport in the 70s - Cuba, East Germany and Kenya were the emergent sports nations. In the 80s we will see great participation by the Chinese.

I have recently read an article by John Underwood of the USA called "A Game Plan for America". In it, he postulates that if the lessons of sport - discipline, competitiveness, teamwork - are to have value in society at large, if indeed the path to the boardroom leads through the locker room, we had better change our priorities.

The point to be made is that competition cannot serve a society if it is anti-social. Winning at any cost and true sportsmanship are incompatible.

Losing at sports must be taught as acceptable. The occasion for competition is more important than the outcome.

Stands that preserve the dignity and value of sport are always remembered. In the US Track and Field Champs, Mary Rand of England had been confused by the markings on the long jump approach and had failed to qualify for the finals. The Negress, Willye White, saw the confusion and asked that Rand be given another chance. She was, and won the final defeating White.

In a Winter Olympics competition, the British two-man bob-sled team was going to have to withdraw from competition because it didn't have a replacement for a bolt that had been sheared off its sled. The Italian team, learning of the problem, took a bolt from their parts and helped their main rivals make the repair. The British team then won the gold medal.

So what I am really advocating is that sport should be enjoyment - none of this win at all costs approach. We must also ensure that sport is not boring otherwise you risk turning children away from competitive sports. Give each child a fair time to try himself out and get self-confidence rather than purely look for the super sportsman. We must prepare children for life, not just sports.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

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