Around 1900 a fresh sports culture started to slowly gain a foothold in an ever more modern society. However, the outbreak of the First World War caused this process to be rudely interrupted. Competitions were cancelled and thousands of sports enthusiasts – amateurs as well as champions – left for the front. Many did not return.
Sport is war, but sport also creates links. During the war, sport provided diversion which was good for the morale. Therefore sport was eagerly embraced by the military logics. Sports competitions were organised on both sides of the frontline, sometimes spontaneously, more often though on initiative of the army commanders. The reason behind it was to keep the troops fit.
After the war many sports competitions were organised as part of the remembrances. They helped to forge a sense of nationhood. But there was also a democratic effect: due to the communal practising of sports, the barriers between the higher and lower classes slowly disappeared. Sport unabatedly continued its quick advance as a popular leisure activity. Sport for everyone.
With the ‘Fairplay?’ exhibition the IFFM touches on the subject of sport and the First World War based on personal stories and a few remarkable objects in its collection.
You can find more information in the new In Flanders Fields Dossier, available in the Museum shop.