War & Peace (sportsbabel remix)

  a sportsbabel multimedia experience
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a sportsbabel multimedia experience


Is war as old as gravity?

If I love peace do I have to love trees?

Are there animals that like peace and animals that like war?

War Animals - Courtesy of N.F.L.

Is peace quiet?

Is making war an instinct we inherited from our hunting or farming ancestors?

Were farmers the first warriors?

Do we love without thinking?

Do we do the right thing without thinking?

When children fight with their brothers and sisters are they learning how to make war?

How do we test the limit of our bodies without war?

Usain Bolt - 100m Beijing

Why do they compare war to a man and peace to a woman?

Peace is unpredictable.

Why is war so exciting?

War is the best game and the worst life.

Is peace the hardest work?

Is peace a time of tension?

What are the different kinds of victory, in a war, in a race?

Is despair a solution?

Why is it dangerous to say "never forget"?

(with respect to ryuichi sakamoto)

sportsweb, replication, contagion


"Can a creative gesture by one artist athlete be passed like a baton through the years to be continued or completed by another artist athlete in another time so that it never has to end but fulfils Gonzalez-Torres's ambition to become 'endless copies'?"

Dario Robleto
artist's notes
Not Quite How I Remember It exhibition
Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto


from HomeShop series number one:

Li Ning



thank you, e, it was a memory i am not soon to forget . . .

Sport ›(Peace)‹ War

In his presentation at the International Symposium for Olympic Research, entitled "The Birth of the Modern Olympic Truce," Naofumi Masumoto discusses in chronological fashion the revival of certain peaceful traditions retrieved from the ancient Olympic Games. One passage stood out for me, which he quoted from The Official Report of the Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad:

The first runner, Corporal Dimitrelis of the Greek Army, stepped forward, clad in uniform with his rifle in hand. Laying down his arms and taking off his uniform, he appeared clad as an athlete and thus, having symbolized the tradition that war ceased during the period of the ancient Games, he lit his torch and set off on the first stage of the relay.

So as early as 1948 in the modern era there is the idea that sport (and peace) begins where war ends. This struck me greatly, as it resonated with my concept for a Peace Relay, in which the "sound of the starting gun symbolizes the violence that exists in the world, but also signifies the beginning of the Peace Relay and its embodied efforts to spread an idea." Perhaps one difference between the two is that the Olympic Torch relay, rooted in classical metaphysics, has an end point at which peace is achieved through international sporting competition, while my proposal endlessly defers the end point of the run — if it is peace that one seeks, one must continually be in its pursuit.

So what happened? How did this important symbolic moment in the genealogy of the modern Olympic Truce yield to the neocolonialism of the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay? Rather than sport (and peace) beginning where war ends, is it possible that sport and war — in their modern, binary incarnation — are in fact mutually reinforcing institutions, leaving peace out of the equation entirely?

Games, Force, Emergence

Can resistance be actualized simply by appropriating and rechanneling the structural forms it seeks to subvert? Does this not just provide an alibi that sustains the original forms of biopower and control?

Courtesy of Human Rights Torch Relay

Consider two examples from the nexus of sport and politics. The first is the Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO), an event launched in 1962 in Indonesia as a counter to the Olympic Games. As Wikipedia elaborates:

Established for the athletes of the so-called "emerging nations" (mainly newly independent socialist states), GANEFO made it clear in its constitution that politics and sport were intertwined; this ran against the doctrine of the International Olympic Committee, which strove to separate politics from sport. The IOC decreed that the athletes attending GANEFO would be ineligible to participate in the Olympic Games.

As Indonesia had established GANEFO in the aftermath of IOC censure for the politically charged 4th Jakarta Asian Games in 1962 which Indonesia hosted, for which Taiwan and Israel were refused visa, the IOC's reaction was understandably hard-line which led to an indefinite suspension of Indonesia from the IOC.

The first edition of GANEFO was held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1963 where in total 51 nations participated such as Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burma, Cambodia, Ceylon, Cuba, Czechoslovakia Socialist Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, German Democratic Republic, Guinea, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Laos, Lebanon, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, People's Republic of China, the Philippines, Poland, Republic of Mali, Rumania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somali Republic, USSR, etc.

The USSR, in a show of solidarity, did send athletes to the first GANEFO, but in order not to jeopardize their position in the IOC, the Soviet athletes were not of Olympic caliber.

The second edition of GANEFO had been planned to be held in Cairo, Egypt in 1967, but this was canceled due to political considerations.

The second example is the Human Rights Torch Relay, currently underway in various locales around the world. This grassroots campaign seeks to raise awareness of the Chinese communist government's poor record of human rights violations including, but not limited to, the torture and oppression of Tibetans and followers of Falun Gong.

The torch relay began in Athens, Greece on August 9, 2007 where the first flame was lit. The relay now continues across five continents throughout the year preceding the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Events held by participating cities around the world will include the traditional Olympics run with the symbolic torch, welcoming events with speakers, concerts, petition campaigns, displays, press conferences, and interview opportunities. Athletes who have participated in past Olympics games will be among the torch relay ambassadors who will pass the torch from one country to another. Participating individuals and organizations will be responsible for holding a torch-receiving ceremony and organizing related activities. We encourage all participants to proceed with plans that best fit the customs and traditions in their host countries and regions.

Information and speakers will be provided to national, regional, and local governments, schools, libraries, civic and church groups, non governmental organizations (NGOs), etc., via printed material, talk shows, blogs, social networking and live presentations hosted by non profit groups, churches, and independent groups interested in human rights. Local contact persons will work with participants to determine the most appropriate events, outreach activities, and materials for their area.

Can such simple "rebrandings" of these traditional sporting structures work? According to Lotringer, Kraus and El Kholti, in the foreword to Baudrillard's In the Shadow of Silent Majorities, "Félix Guattari may have answered that it is no longer necessary to maintain a distinction between material and semiotic deterritorializations and that there is no more absolute primacy of one system over another."

True, but do these two examples really deterritorialize human subjects from the power structures theretofore oppressing them? In my opinion, both of these events are limited by the fact that they simply reproduce the original structural forms they seek to undermine, albeit with an appropriately modified semiotic gloss. With GANEFO, the problem was that the event sought to counter IOC hegemony with opposition at the nation-state level; in other words, by creating just another (potentially exclusionary?) form of nationalist competition. Similarly, the Human Rights Torch Relay seeks to destabilize the hegemony of the Chinese state by duplicating one of the most important symbols of a purportedly universal humanism, the Olympic Torch Relay, during its Beijing 2008 iteration; in this case, a lack of media exposure inhibits the potential for such a method to subvert with any high degree of success.

Courtesy of Human Rights Torch Relay

If the rules of the game create a particular power differential, then the object for those oppressed by this imbalance is to change the rules of the game! In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari elaborate:

What interests us in operations of striation and smoothing are precisely the passages or combinations: how the forces at work within space continually striate it, and how in the course of its striation it develops other forces and emits new smooth spaces. … Movements, speed and slowness, are sometimes enough to reconstruct a smooth space. Of course, smooth spaces are not in themselves liberatory. But the struggle is changed or displaced in them, and life reconstitutes its stakes, confronts new obstacles, invents new paces, switches adversaries (ATP, p. 500).

Perhaps instead we need to recognize that both material and semiotic deterritorializations are required in concert for the struggle to be truly displaced?

I would like to offer two examples that stand in contrast to GANEFO and the Human Rights Torch Relay, not in terms of being "better" than these (my two examples don't even exist yet!), but rather as potential structural challenges to the hegemonic status quo. The first is the Global Village Basketball game that constitutes a portion of my doctoral dissertation project. Briefly, GVB uses networked media technologies to link together geographically-dispersed pickup games of basketball into one meta-game that is simultaneously located in real and synthetic spaces. The second example is the Peace Relay, which multiplies a singular signifier (as with a torch) into the thousands so that many running subjects may disperse as a contagion to spread a meme along multiple vectors.

Both examples potentially displace current understandings of the structures that sustain these sporting and political forms. Global Village Basketball and the Peace Relay — in contrast with GANEFO and the Human Rights Torch Relay, respectively — take traditional structures of linearity, hierarchy, bounded space and fixed identity as the starting point from which new rhizomatic counter-strategies of multiplicity may be launched. Even with these deterritorializations-in-potential, however, we must not fail to heed the coda to the Deleuze and Guattari quote above: "Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us."

The Peace Relay: A Proposal

The Olympic torch relay was begun at the 1936 Olympic Games as a means for the Nazi party to showcase the strength of the German fatherland and gain support for the regime. Since that time it has been, like the Olympics themselves, a more or less political exercise thinly disguised as an act of international solidarity. This politicization was taken to new levels this year as the Beijing Olympic Committee staged their torch relay on an unprecedented scale, traversing 137,000 km and six continents over 129 days and adding to the sponsorship of the relay itself by Coca-Cola a sponsorship of the torch proper by Chinese computer corporation Lenovo.

As Virilio notes: "[S]overeignty no longer resides in the territory itself, but in the control of the territory" (Life in the Wires: The CTheory Reader, p. 132). And furthermore: "Whoever controls the territory possesses it. Possession of a territory is not primarily about laws and contracts, but first and foremost is a matter of movement and circulation" (p. 128). Hence, when the torch passes through Tibet (Autonomous Region) on its way to the summit of Mount Everest, we are witnessing a unique moment of neocolonialism in the name of nation-state (China), transnational corporation (Lenovo) and supranational organization (IOC) — in other words, in the name of sporting Empire.

With this in mind, I would like to introduce a proposal for a different type of relay, free from the overt politics of Empire (though not free of politics), which I will refer to as the Peace Relay.


A certain number of relay batons (let's say 2,010 to stand against the upcoming 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver) are given to selected runners to begin a road race. These are not ordinary batons, however, nor is this a traditional road race.

Traditional Road Race FormatFig.1. Linear vectors of force in a traditional road race format.

In a traditional road race, there is a start, finish, and a fairly linear trajectory that connects the two and channels vectors of force in a forward direction — it is a relatively striated space of sporting activity (see Fig.1). The starting gun begins competitive activity at a specific point, which then finds its terminus at some point in the future (this may in fact be a loop coming back around to the starting point). As described previously on sportsBabel, this structure spatially distinguishes between participants and spectators, which encloses the space and further feeds the former forward towards the goal orientation of reaching the finish line.

The Peace Relay takes this sporting structure as its conceptual foundation and subverts it in several ways. First, the relay has no finish line, which removes the goal orientation in traditional races described earlier. Because there is no finish line and no goal orientation, the requirement for a linear, mono-directional vector of force is eliminated as well. Where does one run when there is no finish line? Anywhere.

Contagion model of peace relayFig.2. Nonlinear vectors of contagion in the peace relay format.

So we have 2,010 runners, each with a baton and the freedom to move in any direction, which forms the basis of the Peace Relay as a potential for meme contagion. The batons are not simple track and field batons, but rather specially designed symbols to represent peace through athletics. When the run begins, each runner scatters in different directions with their own baton (see Fig.2). Each person might hang on to their own baton for a few days, displacing it from the location where it was initially received, but the understanding is that eventually every runner will pass their baton on to another runner. This person will be told how the relay works, be offered the choice of participation, and then will recite some version of the following before receiving the baton:

"I pledge to move the goal of peace forward in the world."

The sound of the starting gun symbolizes the violence that exists in the world, but also signifies the beginning of the Peace Relay and its embodied efforts to spread an idea. The absence of a finish line suggests that peace is ever elusive, endlessly deferred, continuously struggled towards. The baton is the vector of contagion that spreads the idea of peace from one runner to the next. And the open race course ruptures the barriers that keep us separated from one another, allowing the contagion to flow out into open smooth space. "Circulating is the first ethical act of a counterimperial ontology" (Hardt and Negri).

(Thanks are due to Elaine Ho, Barb Fornssler and Tom Kalin for their invaluable feedback.)