Humanity is always and has always been plagued by injustice, war, invisible conflict, intolerance and dishonesty but the majority of us want nothing to do with those toxins.
We want life, education, fun, love and mutual prosperity. We want team spirit to prevail and we want to have the opportunity to excel in our chosen fields, to feel the satisfaction of achievement, of excellence and also of togetherness.
The IJF’s recent decision to allow the participation of Russian and Belorussian athletes under a neutral flag and after much scrutiny into their individual values, is undoubtedly difficult for some of our family to process.
The conflict is raw and ongoing and affects many from our community. We cannot hide from the fact that there is death here. We all lose in war. There is never a winner.
However we must also accept that this current global crisis is not reserved for singular coverage, there is not only one conflict. There are civil wars, international conflicts, domestic street wars in so many countries. The fighting for space and wealth and control is waged on many of our doorsteps, taking the lives of our youth and leaving crime and corruption in their wake. This is the truth.
Sport is now and must continue to be a vehicle for stability, for sharing. Sport is the arena in which fair play is revered more than in any other context. It allows all races and religions to exist under one set of humanist rules. It brings men and women together, spotlighting moments worthy of memoirs, moments to show children that they are allowed to take their space and breathe without fear. Sport is inspiration, it is health and community. Sport is competition and also safety, even in loss. It is the antithesis of war, a model for resolution. Without doubt, exclusion is not part of the path to peace.
No matter how painful a conflict is beyond the borders of our tatami, it must be our collective responsibility to ensure that sport remains unblemished, a context in which we can all come together and remember what it is to be human, first and foremost. We reject no-one. To exclude in sport is to allow the toxins to pervade a space in which they are not welcome and then it is our athletes who lose and our values which erode.
Carlos Zegarra Presser, President of the PJC, said today, “Judo and sports policies in general give many people the opportunity to live in our sport and, even more so, not to die without our sport. The IJF must always keep the dojos open.”
This is the core of who we are and how we wish to be represented. It is the evidence for our spoken values, that no matter how terrible the outside may be, when we bow and enter our dojo, we agree to be human, we agree to the rules of our sport and we reject all those influences that seek to divide us.