I was talking to a reporter of the website Euronews the other day, and he asked me why we, as a species continue to be so obsessed with sport. Why is it that irrespective of the increasingly dramatic changes of the times, people all over the globe align their focus for a few weeks per quadrennium on physical combat, and uncertainty of outcome?
I cannot come up with a more simple, logical and probably scientifically defendable answer than that the sporting contest comes as close to a universally understood and practiced human behaviour as anything. The competition between humans to survive (win) influenced by the (uncertain and often hostile) elements combines instinctive knowledge about what it takes to sustain oneself with a universal appetite to observe this battle and anticipate its yet to be determined dramatic outcome.
Darwin taught us how we have come to be the fittest (for the time being) species on the planet. The Olympics are merely a regular replay of human evolution in an environment where (for most of us) immediate survival is not the most urgent issue anymore.
Through vicarious Olympic experience we now relive the battle for survival that our forebeares had to endure on a daily basis.
And to return to being ‘the fittest to survive’… in that space the Olympic sponsors may play an unexpected role. Being ‘fit’ these days increasingly is becoming a relative concept. As part of our Olympic experience we can decide to have fries and coke as our armchair pleasures, underpinning our latest human battle for survival - the obesity epidemic is rapidly denting our reputation as the fittest species on the planet.