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The Moral Value of Sport

Duration:
43 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 01 August 2012

The Olympics - you can hardly miss them. They're said to have cost more than government cuts in the welfare budget and with the rows over security, Zil lanes, empty seats and the ruthless protection of the Olympic brand it's perhaps too easy to forget that the purpose of all this is the essentially trivial pursuit of sport. Have we come to demand so much from modern sport that we've forgotten its true purpose and value? As the cost of major sporting events like the Olympics has escalated we demand and expect more of them; to make us better, healthier people, to promote social inclusion, contribute to the economy and even peace among nations. That all may sound farfetched from the comfort our or sofas and our ever expanding waistlines, but it's worth recalling that morality is at the core of the spread of modern sport around the world. Pierre De Coubertin, founder of the Olympic Movement, was one of many who thought sport was morally improving - a way of shaping character, transmitting values and challenging anti-social behaviour. "Play up and play the game" feels a long way from the mores of the modern professional footballer, but even here, can we still see the faintly beating heart of the morality play that makes sport so compelling - with its themes of challenge, defeat and redemption? Or in the era of professional corporatized sport is that a hopelessly romantic notion that has fallen victim to the win at all cost Nietzschean Ubermensch? What exactly is the moral value of sport?

Witnesses:
Mihir Bose - Sports journalist & writer, author of 'The Spirit Of The Game', on the ethics & politics of sport
Matthew Syed - Former Olympic table tennis player, now sports & feature writer for The Times
Jenny Price - Chief Executive, Sport England
Sam Tomlin - Sports ThinkTank and go author of a report with Theos "Give Us our Ball Back"

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Claire Fox, Kenan Malik, Matthew Taylor and Melanie Phillips.

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