"All sports for all people." (?)
Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic games as the institutor of the International Olympic Committee, famously declared the games as "all sports for all people." While this is particularly fitting in an Olympic year, it also applies well to the culture surrounding sports here existing outside of the Olympics.
Euro 2012 is being played out as I type (seriously - I'm watching Greece lose to the Czech Republic right this very second). "So what," you may say, "go cheer for Ireland!" But it isn't that simple, as I learned my first day on the ground in Belfast. Here there are Ireland fans, and there are England fans; this has caused some tension as decisions were made about which games (if any) to show on the big screen at Belfast City Hall. Ultimately, it was decided that games of both countries should be shown so as to give both sets of supporters an equal chance. I saw the Ireland-Croatia game there on Sunday night:
Sports have always struck me as a great thing because they have only the value people assign to them - but here I've discovered that they take on much more significance. Ray Casserly, the Resident Director of CIEE here in Belfast, explained that this is the result of political tensions spilling over into things like sports. Some remain uncontroversial. Others, like soccer, force citizens to (yet again in their lives) pick a side or declare an allegiance of some sort. As a result, showing either Irish or English matches in the public venue was a somewhat controversial decision - an impact of the tensions on everyday life I honestly would have never considered, had I not experienced it.
(Sidebar: watching the match was a relatively subdued affair - Ireland did lose, after all.)