For Nicolas Sarkozy, former President of the French Republic, sport provides a model for how the world can solve at least three great challenges: maintaining national identity while embracing modernity, accepting the realities of economic competition while making sure it is fair, and bridging the many barriers that divide people.
In a speech during the official opening of the Doha Goals Forum, he also called on international sport governing bodies to be flexible on major event scheduling to open the hosting of major events to new countries and regions.
“What brings people together is sport. Sport enables us to share the same emotion without being in opposition. Sport brings people together.”
Noting that when people speak about Qatar, they often focus on its considerable natural resources, he highlighted how Qatar is addressing “one of the trickiest questions of the 21st century: how to reconcile national identity with modernity. In sport, one sees how we can accept the complementarities, the dovetailing of identity and modernity.”
Noting the growing trend for people to identify with their nation, their continent, and their group, driven by forces that are “making us affirm and restate our identity, but not in a positive way, but rather in opposition to others. Sport is the antidote to this. With sport, differences bow out, regionalisms disappear, and rivalries hush.”
As for economic and other real-world competition, Sarkozy said competition as such isn’t the problem, with sport providing an alternative model. “Sport has rules; it is determined by fair play, justice, equality. It demonstrates peaceful, fair, equitable competition.”
“If I love football, I need to share it, and if that’s so, then this strategic choice carries with it two consequences: scheduling and hosting. In his call for greater democratization of major sporting events, he challenged scheduling conventions, asking why the Olympics must be held in August, rather than, say, June and why the FIFA World Cup should be held in June and July and not some other time of the year.
While Qatar has the resources to provide air conditioning to stadiums, even during Qatar’s summer heat, “other countries don’t have the same resources” and so will be prevented from ever hosting the World Cup if it must be held in summer, he said.
He also said there is no reason major sporting events can’t be held in several countries, since a single country or city might not have, nor need to build, the infrastructure to host such an event.