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Italian sport at the pandemic time

by Maurizio Monego

Decimo Giunio Giovenale coined the formula "Panem et circenses" to designate how "bread and games" were a strategy of the Roman emperors to “drug” the people and keep them in political helplessness. Almost two thousand years later, the peoples of the world have experienced the meaning of that formula. Bread has been missing in many situations, increasing the number of poor people who thicken the queues waiting for a meal; the games disappeared due to the inability to play them.

We suddenly found ourselves orphans of the European Football Championship and of all the national championships, the Olympic Games, the big cycling races postponed or canceled and a long series of international events upset and entrusted to uncertain programs for the future, were skipped. The Italian Tour (il Giro d’Italia), which was to start from Budapest, has moved this debut to next year. An athlete like the swimmer Federica Pellegrini forced to spend a year more training to be able to play her fifth Olympics: in Tokyo, if the Games will played, she will be 32 years old. For some, postponing the Games is the opportunity to recover from a serious injury that would have forced them to give up.

Author of this article (L) with awardee Rodolfo Carrera /ITA/ in 2019

From the sportsmen's point of view, the shock was not only the enormous economic damage and the dramatic loss of jobs, but also the loss of habits as practitioners and spectators. Marcel Mauss and structuralist sociology defined sport as "total social fact". The pandemic has made us convinced.

Apart from the professionals who have had to invent forms of home training and have seen a year of activity fade away, basic sport has suffered the closure of all the sports facilities: gyms, swimming pools, playgrounds ...

At certain times, Italy seemed to have become a country of runners. Many reacted to confinement by running in parks and on the streets showing little sense of community and fair play, regardless of the fact that they could be vehicles for the virus spread. Until lock-down has been imposed.

Certain restrictions in outdoor sports, such as mountaineering, golf, tennis seemed unreasonable, but the principle of reducing travel and avoiding gatherings had to apply to everyone. Faced with the priority of health, sport, which should also contribute to health, had to give up numerous positions on the scale of priorities.

The Italians, on the other hand, have rediscovered and valued principles such as solidarity, sacrifice and the sense of the state, in its various articulations, from the government, to the administrators of regions and to the mayors. There has been a decline in populism, anti-Europeanism and, in general, we have witnessed a taking of responsibility - no matter if it comes from fear - towards others, and greater discipline in respecting the rules. Upon awakening the sport practiced we will have to remember it.

Maurizio Monego, Vice President, Executive Committee Member of the International Fair Play Committee