Laureus victories echo a common sense of loss

Laureus victories echo a common sense of loss

Under a pale blue sky, to the drum of traffic, amid the cheers of sport and the tears for the missing, a city struggled with the conflicting emotions of the living and the lost. As always in life, and everywhere, both are intertwined.

One of wednesday morning's front pages in Malaysia's capital carried an affecting picture of a grieving man and the headline read "MH 370 in our hearts".

The back page had a smiling photo of Luis Suarez from a faraway land and of an ambitious Lewis Hamilton, who is on these shores. Two sides of a newspaper reminding us about the two sides of life's coin.

On wednesday, in Kuala Lumpur, Laureus awardees grinned, F1 cars grumbled in Sepang garages and on Thursday, golf's EurAsia Cup will be under way. Sport - whose gleaming young are the recurring representation of vibrant life and possibility - is everywhere here, but grief has not left.

Amid the chatter, the star-gazing, the talk of engines, there it was, a tragic shadow in the background - the plane. For many families, life and possibility as they knew it, has been cruelly interrupted.

And so an F1 concert was cancelled and a banner in memory of MH 370 was unveiled at a Laureus football match. Is it enough? Who is to say. How do we honour the lost? Is to play not to mourn?

Sport can seem a triviality amid the travails of life, an idle playfulness amid the grim. In a way it is. Yet like accountants and bank managers, who travel to offices every day, this is also what athletes do - this is their job, their career, their livelihood.

Sport cannot be called wilfully inconsiderate either, for it is hardly immune to calamity. Mountaineers fall and boxers go into comas. Racing cars crash, they burn, drivers die and yet they race on. Not callously, not without memory, but because this is who they are. Racers.

Sport and tragedy have walked together through time. Soldiers have played football during wars to lift morale and as distraction from a madness and countries have attempted healing by sending athletes as friendly emissaries to each other's lands.

There is a symbolic heft to sport, a connective tissue, an uplifting spirit, and while no one overestimates its impact as a balm, neither can its considerable value be overlooked.

As Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak movingly said at the Laureus World Sports Awards: "... for millions of people sport is also an escape, from hardship, from poverty, from conflict. In the hardest times we look for heroic feats to inspire us. For Malaysia this is one such time."

Other nations, in their own separate ways, have taken this journey. Weeks after the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar scored a century in India and spoke profoundly as his nation grieved.

As he said: "I don't think by India winning or me scoring a hundred, people who have lost their loved ones will feel any better. It's a terrible loss for all of them and our hearts are with them, but whatever manner we can contribute to making them feel better we'll make that effort." It is a thought to hold close.

Last night, as athletes in black ties and glittering gowns gathered for the Laureus awards, in the middle of congratulation there was a pause for reflection. So many words were spoken, yet also a minute's silence held.

It was an appropriate time for this vast athletic tribe, who speak constantly of "luck" - imagine, to play for a living - to contemplate the enormity of that word.

After all, this week they get to fulfil their fantasies at a track, a golf course, an awards ceremony. It is a good fortune not extended to those whose dreams were lost forever at sea. Life goes on, yes, but it must do so sombrely.


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