Arts vs Sport – the conflict of worth

Watching the Olympics over the past two weeks has reminded me of an argument I had a few years ago at university, whilst I was studying for a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Management.

The argument (it was me versus everyone else, including the tutor) was about the value of the arts and sport in detailing the human condition, and its worth to society overall. The general feeling in the room was that sport could never give you an understanding of humanity and the inner workings of the mind in the same as a stage production could. Therefore sport was inferior and ultimately a less satisfying intellectual experience. I was aghast.

As someone who has been obsessed with sport my whole life, but who has also spent a large portion of my career in the arts (indeed, Mr Cameron, in Indian dance), I stood up firmly against this. I think the joy, pain, obsession, camaraderie, tears, despair, support, cheating and sportsmanship displayed at London 2012 has given me as much of an understanding of human behaviour and capacity as the arts ever can. But not any more.

It has always been baffling, as a fan of both the arts and sport, as to why many seem to see the two as incompatible. The disciplines and level of commitment required by both, especially the physical demands in areas such as dance, are incredibly similar. The fruits of taking part in both can be life changing. Both deserve as much credit and respect as the other.

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