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Sport and Nutrition as Challenges to Diverse Society

Zuzana Lizcová Zuzana Lizcová / Ed. 6. 4. 2016

If you like sports, there is nothing better than to hit a ball properly after a busy day. Or to run 10 kilometers. If you do not enjoy it, it sounds of course horribly. “I hate sports,” the German playwright and columnist Sibylle Berg told me in a recent interview. In her opinion, peer pressure forces people to work out. Sport is, as Berg says, a part of the overall brainwashing.It makes people forget their daily rat race and obediently respect the rules of the major society.

Well, I am on the other side of the barricade, if there is any. As a child, I used to play basketball. With a height of 160 cm I did not exactly make it to the NBA. But anyway, until now I believe I learned a lot. After few years of squash and badminton I landed in a proper gym again. I started to train with a volleyball team. At the age of 34, for the first time in my life. Why? I like the game. If it is played well it has thrill and rhythm. And the gym is just behind the corner.

What keeps surprising me, when it comes to sport, is the passion. No matter whether people watch it or actually play it, they often fall to a certain trance. It makes them merge with the team or crowd, forget all what is around the pitch or court. I can remember a colleague journalist smashing his racket, a respectable medical doctor harshly swearing at his son, ladies in their fifties refusing to talk to each other for hours because of a lost set. Or guys shouting at each others face “who is not jumping along, is not a Czech” (for the Germans: a popular slogan among the Czech national team fans: “Kdo neskáče, není Čech!”).

On one hand, this passion is great. It magically turns discreet housewives in team leaders and boring office workers into enthusiastic strikers. On the other hand, it also generates violent fans, horribly shouting coaches and sarcastic PE-teachers, who can make anyone sick of any physical activity for years or even lifetime. Not everyone has to like it.

That is why nobody should be pushed into sport but feel free to spend the leisure time on a sofa or in his garden. That sounds more than obvious. But it does not have to be the case in near future. There are some worrying signs, that people might actually be forced into a “healthy” lifestyle. The daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported recently about a considered new program of the insurance company Generali. It should be for people who work out a lot and care about their nutrition. The company would use an electronic App to check if the clients really fulfilled the conditions and eventually provide them with gift cards, discount vouchers and bonuses for their activities. What is behind the calculation? Healthy living patients cost the insurance company less than others; they should be rewarded for their efforts.

That does not look that scary at the first glance and it is only a possible future project. But a similar program called Vitality, which inspired Generali, already works in South Africa, and something analogous in the USA. It shows once again, how many people are willing to pass very sensitive personal data to a commerce company for a little benefit. Some insurance companies also plan to install for instance so called “black boxes” into cars to monitor the driver’s behavior behind the wheel, see. Those who will agree with “a black box”, will pay considerably lower insurance fees than the reluctant drivers.

The example of black boxes shows that a voluntary decision to join a certain program can easily turn into pressure to go with the crowd. This concern was confirmed at the beginning of December for the German TV Station ZDF by the trend researcher Peter Wippermann. In his opinion it is more than probable that the voluntary “healthy” programs turn to obligatory very soon.

You might say – ok, why not? Why should I pay the same insurance as my fat neighbor, who smokes like a chimney and never goes further than to the next supermarket? But things are not usually that easy. What if somebody is ill? Or how would you judge a really common type of Czech sportsman who drinks about ten beers after a successful match? Is that a healthy lifestyle? Or should we check his alcohol consumption as well?

Anyway, I learned that sport and nutrition are really important topic for my generation. We had some interesting discussions about it in this year’s CGYPP as well. Not only with Thomas Groll, alumni from the year 2011/2012, whom we met in Regensburg and whose company Atraversa deals with implementation of intercultural integration concepts for international sports clubs. That is why I hope many of you can have a certain opinion on this – and agree or disagree with me. I would be more than happy to discuss it online at our new Facebook fan page.

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