DURING THE COLD WAR, THE ideologies of capitalism and communism clashed on many different fronts. Parades of soldiers, tanks and missiles through the broad streets of Moscow were a formidable display of Russian military might, while taller skyscrapers and the dominance of the dollar were signs of American muscle flexing.
The Space Race was about more than human endeavour; it was about which political and economic system was the most successful. Less reaching for the stars; more getting there first. And during that period, the sportsmen and women of both sides were pushed ever harder to win, not for themselves but for the glorification of the values their respective countries represented.
The effect of sport on a nation cannot be underestimated. Socially, culturally and economically, the impact of sport in bringing people together that might ordinarily be divided, can do more in one bounce of a ball or a single 100-metre sprint than any number of political speeches.
It is a well known fact that when a nation's soccer team goes on a winning run in a major tournament, crime figures fall and productivity in industry goes up. There is not a politician in the world who would not want to bottle such a thing if it were possible.
But it is not just high-profile success that can benefit a nation. Sport can be used to improve the health of the general population, provide activities for young people for whom boredom so often leads to antisocial behaviour, low-level crime and, on occasion, substance abuse, and it can also unite otherwise bitterly divided factions within communities.
IraqiSport, an independent consultancy group, is firmly grasping the opportunities sport provides those who are seeking solutions to such social problems. In the current turbulent state of Iraq, it predicts that sport, while understandably not the priority of the country's leaders at the present moment, has a great deal to offer in terms of rebuilding for the future.
Rebuilding Iraq after a decade of sanctions, the devastation of war and the ongoing insurgency is a formidable process. It is also a slow one. With rates of unemployment a major problem, the 60% of Iraq's 25m people that are under the age of 25 represents the country's future.
Currently a largely untapped resource, it is the concern of those who would see peace prevail over conflict that the possibilities provided by this section of society, if it becomes disaffected and frustrated, could be lost. It is...