Thursday, July 17, 2014

Common Ground

The name of the organization that sponsored this Sport and Society conference is called Common Ground.  The organization runs conferences all over the world on various subjects. I spoke at one previously that had as its subject, Knowledge, Organizations, Culture, and Change.  That conference was in Cambridge and had over 500 attendees.  I imagine the location made it more accessible to many. For those of us here from North America or Europe, it is a long flight to Rio de Janeiro.

There was also a long bus ride from the conference hotel to the university where the sessions are held.  Today I was on the front seat of the bus as we journeyed through the streets of Noteroi en route to the sessions. As I looked at the streets during rush hour, it struck me at how much the scene I was observing was common to many others I'd seen.

Hundreds of people were on their way to work. Busses picked up those waiting at stops for their ride to a job. Drugstores, supermarkets, eateries, and gas stations lined the streets. Motorists tried to switch lanes--a bit more aggressively than in Boston which is no slouch in the aggressive driving department.  Last night the bus driver actually bumped a motorcyclist waiting at a light. The reaction?  Bus driver put up his hand as if to say he was sorry. Motorcyclist looked back incredulously.  Not sure I have seen too many busses bump cyclists of any variety, but have certainly seen incredulous glances from cyclists and drivers alike.  Except for the language of the signs, the trip this morning was probably not a whole lot different from commutes in many large cities in the world.

At the sessions the topics presented seemed to be universal even if the sports discussed varied.  Use and abuse of drugs in various sports.  Effects of sport on athletes' self concepts. Bullying in professional sports. Use of sport for social change.  The politics of stadium building.  The use of facilities to promote national pride.  Merit of emphasizing physical success versus academic success.  Need for urban commitment to citizen health.  Representatives from Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, Russia and Eastern Europe, and of course South America were represented.   The issues seemed universal.

Common Ground throughout.  Even on the walls of the bathrooms.  I see what I imagine are pornographic scribbles because they are accompanied with vulgar caricatures.

Looking forward to taking a ferry to Rio tomorrow morning and doing some sight seeing.  Most of the time here thus far I have been sitting in classrooms that could have been anywhere.

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