2018 is going to be another year of outrageous, expensive and laudable sporting endeavours. In the early part of the year the Winter Olympics will be hosted by South Korea and then in the summer the FIFA World Cup is heading to Russia. Yet, for me the two stand out events will be canine and virtually based.
Firstly, Crufts ‘the world’s greatest dog show.’ I had to defend myself during a second year undergraduate seminar earlier in December when I, proudly, declared that one of my most influential early sporting moments was attending Crufts. In the seminar there was absolute uproar “Crufts is not a sport, it is a hobby” and “it is not a sport because it is about dogs, not people.” Does sport have to be about human endeavour? I argued no, the rich history of using animals (horses, dogs, birds amongst other animals) goes back for centuries, if not millennia if you include the Ancient worlds. Crufts, last year, celebrated its 125 year anniversary having started out in 1891. The presence of events, such as, Crufts who function differently to other popular human sports have a historic connection to culture and lifestyle in the United Kingdom. The spectacle takes place in Birmingham at the NEC in March and televised (mostly likely on Channel Four) or on a YouTube livestream. The recent expansion to using the digital platform of YouTube links to the second stand out event of the year, the Asian Games.
The Asian Games are not particularly well documented or reported in the UK media as it is a non-western regional sporting event, yet this year it has garnered increasing attention due to the inclusion of eSports (a form of competition using video games). In April 2017 the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) partnered with Alisports (the sports arm of Chinese online retail giant Alibaba) to have eSports as a demonstration sport in 2018 and an official medal sport in the 2022 iterations of the Asian Games. The long term goal will be to push the argument that eSports could feature in the Olympic Games, part of the wider ambition of engaging with younger global populations. Reported in the Guardian, the OCA said the decision to include eSports in the 2018 Asian Games reflects “the rapid development and popularity of this new form of sports participation among the youth.” In contrast to Crufts a bastion of the traditional and historic connections to sport and canines, eSports is an evolution of connection between sport and the virtual world. Is it the future of international sporting opportunities?
2018 will be an interesting year to how traditional and contemporary sporting events will be represented in the media, viewed by audiences and supported by sponsors, organisations and governments. The decision on the 19th December to award Birmingham the Commonwealth Games in 2022 – which has a preliminary public budget of one billion pounds – sparks the question of what sports will feature in 2022? Old or new. Virtual, human or animal based. At the turn of a new calendar year who knows what the next 12 months will hold!
Happy New Year all,