Orwell and Sport (by Adam Goodwin)

Orwell and Sport

by Adam Goodwin | 2014 | Last Updated: July 12, 2014

George Orwell

Many Westerners know the name Orwell very well.   Around the time of the end of World War II, Orwell released some of his greatest and most enduring works.  Nineteen Eighty Four and the short, Animal Farm.  Much of his writing focused on social injustice, and an over-arching government.


Once, Orwell commented on his views of sport.  He said:

Sport is war minus the shooting.

On the surface, it may seem that Orwell is correct.  There is blood, teamwork, pride, identity, and much more all on the line.  To many, sport at first appears as a war zone.  Battles, cries of pain, and a domination by men.

More Modern Term

However, Orwell may have an old-fashioned understanding and appreciation for sport.  Sport is much more than just high performance and elite athletes with special coaches and training regiments.  Sport is much more than a cultural hub dominated by men; albeit one may not know this by tuning to a sports channel on the TV (e.g., World Cup, Le Tour de France, N.B.A., N.F.L., N.B.A., N.H.L., M.L.B., et al).

This statement may have fit with the times of Orwell (1930s and 40s).  When Orwell was around, sport could seem like a battle field.  If you were hurt, you didn’t say anything (complain) and kept playing (fighting) for your team (country/nation).   There was little protective equipment and much relied on your ability to persevere through the pain and injuries.

If you go to a soccer field and watch a number of five year olds, the soccer field/pitch, likely does not resemble a battlefield.  If it did, we would have much to be concerned about, as most five year olds playing soccer likely cannot even tell you which team they are on (sounds like some spies during war).  With movements in the sporting world such as Sport for All and mass sport participation, marathon routes do not resemble war zones.  They resemble a space for thousands to gather and ensure the animal that all humans are receives an appropriate amount of human interaction and socialization.


Many of Orwell’s writing is timeless.  Pick up a copy of the Animal Farm, and you can see many similarities to Canada’s political theatre.  An opposition party promises not to be like the current government and actually work to meet the needs of the taxpayer.  A few months after the election, and it can be difficult to distinguish between the previous and current governments.

With Orwell’s thought about sport (‘Sport is war minute the shooting’), however, he isn’t necessarily wrong. In the context in which he said this, he was likely bang on.  However, things have changed in the sporting industry.  Sport, in many instances, no longer reflects war.  Even in high performance, popular sporting contexts, the athletes act, behave, and expect to be treated like A-list celebrities; not like their colleagues treatment 60-80 years ago.

A Call to Action

If you had to write a one sentence to describe sport, what would the one sentence look like?  Comment below to provide your own thoughts/ideas!

Further Reading

Based on your reading of this blog post, you may also be interested in: Okanagan Elite Athlete.


These are one person’s thoughts and opinions.  We welcome your feedback and own thoughts. Feel free to comment below or connect with us via social media.

Adam Goodwin is a Canadian working in the United Kingdom and virtually in Canada, and is a proud introvert and silent leader. He has travelled to nearly 50 major and global cities around the world, and has worked with universities, non-profits, consulting firms, and sports organizations. He has family and friends in Canada and around the rainbow nation’s only home. Follow his travels, work, projects, and thoughts on Twitter (@adam13goodwin) and on this blog (click on the bottom right-hand corner to sign up for weekly email notifications).  For more about some of immediate day-to-day work, visit www.okanaganathlete.com.

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