Last week I joined billions of people around the world watching the incredible opening ceremony for the London Olympics. I was delighted to see the Sierra Leone team marching proudly beneath the national flag.
And I thought back to another, smaller sporting event a few days before that also brought together Sierra Leoneans and made me proud.
On Friday 13th July the British High Commission hosted a basketball tournament at the National Stadium for students at Fourah Bay College.
The players came together under the banner of The Olympic Truce, an ancient Greek tradition guaranteeing safe passage to and from the Olympic Games.
Today it brings people around the world together using sport to improve understanding and to break down political and ideological barriers.
The tournament brought together players as diverse in talent and fitness as they were different in origin and opinion. But they all pitched in and competed fiercely.
High fives of congratulation balanced squabbling as players strove to out fox, out jump and out score each other. Some on the court were more talented individually, others were stronger team players but everyone contributed, everyone had fun.
At the end of the tournament, ideological and political differences remained, but there was a general sense that sport and the spirit of the Olympic Truce had worked their magic, bringing people together and helping them to see each other in a new light.
They worked because sport is a universal language for different nations and cultures. Sierra Leone is no exception: every day I see Sierra Leoneans wearing Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United or even Tottenham shirts.
Supporting a team builds a sense of community; friendly rivalry with supporters of other teams generates excitement and interest. Saturdays would be a lot less interesting without football!
Sport allows us to compete against each other and to enjoy the experience. As our fortunes wax and wane we band together in hope and expectation, in triumph or disappointment – look at emotional rollercoaster for Andy Murray supporters during the Wimbledon final!
When a game is over we congratulate the winners, commiserate with the losers and resume our everyday lives – until the next game comes round!
That willingness to embrace difference, to compete fiercely but as friends is the underlying principal of democracy. Whenever we compete, be it through sport, politics or even interviewing for a job we learn, become wiser, better, stronger.
While we may not win, and nobody can win all the time, we do not lose if we learn from our shared experiences.
As the November election approaches I look forward to a colourful, exciting and peaceful experience through which all Sierra Leoneans will benefit. Then we can congratulate the winners and commiserate with the losers and resume our everyday lives – until the next election comes round!
“One thing I believe to the fullest is that if you think and achieve as a team, the individual accolades will take care of themselves. Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” Michael Jordan.
To comment on this blog and interact with the British High Commission in Freetown, please do so at: http://ukinsierraleone.fco.gov.uk/en/. Look for”Conversations” and follow the link.