Jointly sponsored by the Finnish government and UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the meeting, officially called the International Conference on the Contribution of Sports to the Improvement of Professional Abilities and to Cultural Development, had set itself a task as tough to encompass as its name. To no one's surprise the conference failed to come up with any very clear ideas. It concluded in a vague way that sport can contribute to health, relieve boredom for industrial workers, improve their reflexes and enable them to escape some of the frustration of factory life. ( UNESCO was urged to assist in an international exchange of information in this sociological field.)
They skated so cautiously over the thin ice of international relations and discriminatory practices that nearly a week passed before a Pakistan resolution condemning political discrimination in sports finally won approval. And the heady question of the relationship between sport and culture was not moved much further forward by the thinkers at Helsinki than it had been by the ancient Greeks.
The importance of the conference, however, lay not in its resolutions, but in its implicit recognition that sport in the broadest sense is becoming an increasingly vital aspect of the lives of all peoples—something well worthy of the attention of an international conference. Delegates from 38 nations were on hand and the fact that only one U.S. delegate attended was noted by all the rest with raised eyebrows. Great Britain sent five delegates, Russia eight.
Out of the Helsinki meeting came plans for a full-fledged "International Council of Sport and Physical Education," with an organization meeting set for September 1960 in Rome. Meanwhile, the delegates were left to muse over the closing remarks of Professor A. Davis Munrow of the University of Birmingham, England, whose comment on the proper sporting mood is worthy of consideration by sportsmen everywhere.
"For adult sport to make a real contribution to a culture pattern," said the professor, "it has to retain in it some of the characteristics of childish play—when it is fun it is never merely flippant, when it is serious it is never overtense, it is pervaded with an air of complete enlistment without the characteristics of obsession."
Lapse at Lord's
In this indelicate age of nuclear power, mechanized ease and crude pragmatism, there are few places where an English gentleman can still find the graceful amenities of a bygone day. One of them is the cricket ground at Lord's.
The members' pavilion at Lord's (which was named after a lordly but not titled Mr. Lord more than a century ago) is tougher to get into than Eton, and the average waiting period is more than 10 years. One sweltering day last week, the 145-year-old gentility of Lord's was brutally shattered when some 30 cricket fans in what amounted to Lord's bleachers took off their shirts and sat watching the play in bare and hairy chests.
There was no real trouble. When an attendant was despatched to inform the half-nude offenders that numerous English ladies were seriously threatened with the vapors at the ghastly sight, the culprits hastily covered themselves again. But despite the heavy sarcasm, humor and amusement evidenced in the English press, most proper Englishmen realized with a pang that Lord's would never be quite the same again.