Guest Blog: Language and Sport

I wrote a guest blog article, which is featured at today, examining the language used in sport played by people with disabilities.  Like the person-first language debate in the disability community, the discussion about language in the Paralympic community can be fierce.

I argued the merits of the prefix “para” in this article, and my athlete colleague Courtney Knight argued for the qualifier “adapted.”  It is an exciting, sometimes adversarial read, and I encourage you to access it here:

Athletes First is part of a research project at the University of British Columbia by Andrea Bundon in Vancouver, Canada.  The project explores how the Internet can be used by people with a common interest (in this case, disability sport) to discuss topics of concern to them.  Andrea is most interested in reactions to the articles that are posted, so please speak your mind, on the topic presented, in the comments on her blog.

Should soft drinks be taxed?

Soda Cans

Anecdotally, we all know that obesity is on the rise in the world.

World Health Organisation projections indicate that globally in 2008:

  • approximately 1.5 billion adults (age 20+) were overweight;
  • of these, more than 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese.

NDP Leadership hopeful Dana Larsen recently proposed a tax on soft drinks to fight against this severe health emergency.  I think that his proposal regarding sugared drinks is an excellent start.  Soft drinks are linked to obesity.  But, obesity is caused by much more: a poor overall diet, and lack of exercise.

Personally, I find it hard to understand why, as a society, we choose to allow chips and candy to be less expensive than fresh produce, complex carbohydrates and lean meats.  If Canada is serious about tackling the obesity challenge, unhealthy food needs to be consumed less by Canadians than healthy food.

It seems entirely reasonable to me to tax food that is void of nutrition, full of chemicals, and that causes the catastrophes that come along with obesity.  In the same vein, we should be subsidising healthy foods full of nutrients and taste.

When a family chooses its food at the grocery store, it is wrong to make them choose between a $2.99 box of salty corn product, and a $5.99 bag of organic apples.  Let’s reverse the choice.

Opponents of this course of action will argue that taxing food eliminates consumer choice, and that eliminating consumer choice is bad.  They say that it is political suicide for a government to try and control every substance consumed by citizens.

Alcohol and tobacco are recognised as causing poor health and are both highly regulated.  The Canadian roots of alcohol regulation are in the temperance movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Alcoholism was not on course to give that generation a shorter lifespan then their parents.  Today, obesity is.

I am glad that food is getting traction in public discussion, and can’t wait to see the fruits of a meaty Food Policy in Canada.

Canadian Nationalism and Sport

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Paralympics Fans

In the aftermath of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games here in Vancouver, there is much talk about a renewed Canadian patriotism.  Spontaneous bursts of O Canada in the streets, red wearing and flag waving were staples of the Games.  Now that they are over, where does it leave us?

It is easy, and fun, to get caught up in the rush of a stadium cheering the home team to victory.  A feeling like that can overtake you, and do strange things to your thinking.  It can motivate you to accomplish something difficult you have always been afraid to try.

But, we are wary of nationalism, here in Canada.  We have seen in history and in the news, the damage that can be caused by a country thinking that they are better than another country.  We know that nationalism can blind.

So, is patriotism good or bad?  A force that can push a group of people to greatness, or infamy: it has inspired wars, it has inspired song, it has inspired words and it has inspired dishes of food.

It is confusing to see such strong emotion on display, brought on by nothing but a flag or a song.  What if a politician puts a policy forward that is bad, and then accuses anyone against it of being un-Canadian?  We all want to be a part of the overwhelmingly positive experience of Vancouver 2010; we want to be Canadian.

The emotional pride on display here is not for the maple leaf and it is not blind.  It is for athletes.  For Olympians and Paralympians who have set almost unachievable goals, and reached them.  Canadians are proud that these athletes, who come from the same country as them, are role models.  They played hard and fair – and won.

The legacy of these Games is that citizens from every country in our world will take up sport.  They will take it up in part because they saw how passionate Canadians are for high performance.  They will become sportspeople, and reap the rewards.

We know that being physically active and engaged in healthy competition builds resilience like nothing else.  Sport is healthcare, it prevents involvement in crime, it is education, it builds communities, and it provides purpose.

I have known that sport is an overwhelmingly positive force for a long time.  I am glad that the rest of Canada is starting to agree.

This is the Canadian nationalism that fuels me.