Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by James A.R. Nafziger and Stephen F. Ross
* Klaus Vieweg and Saskia Lettmaier I. INTRODUCTION: SPORT, EQUALITY, DIFFERENCE, AND THE ELUSIVE LEVEL PLAYING FIELD Sport is a common denominator of most cultures. It is a universally popular pastime, a globe-spanning institution. Sports transcend national, racial, religious, gender, and class lines. Sports are what people love, what unite them, and, perhaps, help deﬁne them. As Nelson Mandela put it, ‘Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.’1 As Number 5 of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism declares: ‘Any form of discrimination with regard to country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.’2 At the same time, divisions in sport are widespread. We distinguish according to nationality, sex, weight, and age, between the able-bodied and the disabled: national teams exclude foreigners; men and women play and compete separately; there are weight classes in boxing and wrestling; senior competitions protect older participants from younger adversaries; much energy has been quietly and successfully invested in creating sporting activities expressly for people with disabilities (such as the Paralympics, the Special Olympics, and wheelchair basketball). In sports, as elsewhere in society, we seem to be both united and divided, and the reasons for the divisions are not difﬁcult to uncover: differentiation in sport is often justiﬁed in order to ensure fairness and a level playing ﬁeld in competition....
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