With this year’s Confederations Cup in full swing, it’s time to tip the hat of science fiction to the phenomenon of global sporting events.
While in theory, we’ve had ‘global’ sports for at least a century now, the reality is that the early World Cups and Olympics were predominantly regional affairs – as athletes tended to be men of leisure (or college athletes, or both) in the early days, they tended to represent only wealthier nations, or at the least, only the wealthier classes of those nations.
While the number of nations participating increased steadily through the 1970s and 80s, the politics and ideologies of the Cold War overshadowed geographic and ethnic identities, putting the global nature of the competitions into the background. While it would be difficult to pinpoint the emergence of truly global sporting events, the emergence of a single worldwide football market might be one milestone. With stars from Japan and Africa increasingly complementing and supplanting the traditional European and Latin American superpowers – and with the creation of an economically viable professional soccer league in the United States – it is safe to say that football had become a global sport by the mid 1990s.
Other sports have followed, with global tournaments in baseball and cricket being created and expanded, and the Olympics have increasingly become a two-week festival of international excitement and competition. NewsCorp has been an aggressive part of this expansion, of course, packing its satellites with live sports content from rugby to cricket to american football.
But why is any of this scifi? For two reasons: on the one hand is the creation of single, unified global market. And on the other is the larger picture: humans from every corner of the world, meeting on a truly global scale to determine the fastest, the most strongest, and the best among them. Where the medieval version of this concept involved bloodshed and pillage, we now have a peaceful (generally speaking), cooperative competition, played with the goal of crowning a true world champion.
Because once we start thinking peacefully in terms of planetary supremacy, we are not far from considering new world. If for no other reason than to expand the TV market!