Category Archives: Olympic

Market Opportunities: Will eSports be a GameChanger for Squash?

A couple of months ago, I attended a seminar hosted by MIT Enterprise Forum in Cambridge, Massachusetts on “The eSports, Gaming and Blockchain Technology Revolution,” sponsored by the law firm of Hamilton, Brook, Smith and Reynolds. My prior limited knowledge on the subject matter, enabled me to takeaway that eSports is another means to amplify the sport of squash in a crowded sports and entertainment market with short-attention spans from fans, viewers and sponsors. Though, squash was not selected for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the door remains open for the World Squash Federation to make its bid for the 2024 Olympics in Paris and failing that the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Over a 26-year span of immersing myself in the global squash community through various roles as an amateur player, volunteer, coach and administrator, I, along with the more than 20 million squash players worldwide, wish to see the sport of squash designated an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee. Many (including non-squash players) consider squash to be a “true-sport,” unlike “eSports,” which has recently become a multimillion dollar industry attracting major sponsorship. The target customers of eSports are mostly young people, but the industry also has the potential to reach stay-at-home parents, “differently-abled” athletes, career professionals-in-transition and senior citizens with extra time on their hands to participate in leagues and tournaments.

In recent years, the Professional Squash Association has made limited attempts to license squash video games to bolsters its marketing efforts to capture the “eye-balls” of both current and potential squash fans. My prediction for 2019 and beyond is that, if there are any serious technologists, publishers or members of the gaming community, who possess the know-how to develop, market and sell a world-class gaming squash product (without violence as the premise which in the case of squash is a gentleman’s sport) there is a good possibility for a win-win of squash’s inclusion in the Olympic Games as well as developing a profitable eSports business leader. eSports will never be able to replace the skill, athleticism and mental fortitude that the real sport of squash requires but it can help capture the public’s sporting imagination to expand squash’s audience.

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Sports Diplomacy: Effective or Not in Promoting Foreign Policy?

My Bowdoin 20th class reunion will be held in May/June 2019 and as such I’ve been reconnecting with staff, students and alumni at my alma mater. Any former government and legal studies majors and the general public may learn from a Distinguished Lecturer in Government Bradely Babson’s course “The Two Koreas and Geopolitics of Northeast Asia,” class podcast held back in May 2018, by current Bowdoin students Tim Ahn ’19 and Sam Jablonski ’18 on the role of sports diplomacy in the Koreas.

In a larger context, the International Sport for Development and Peace Association has a diverse membership of students, educators, researchers, practitioners and advocates of which sports diplomacy is a component. Increasingly, many scholars are publishing their research findings in books, journal articles and media who are affiliated with ISDPA. While the podcast by Bowdoin undergraduates is just one sample of the debates surrounding sports diplomacy, the Journal of Sport for Development Special Issue on Latin America featured an article titled: “U.S. sport diplomacy in Latin America and the Caribbean: A programme evaluation.

The recommendations set forth by researchers from George Mason University Center for Sport Management are based on the assumption that the “intent of sports diplomacy programs is to create meaningful change in local communities.” Though the costs of sports diplomacy can be expensive and time consuming, I tend to agree with the GMU researchers’ recommendations, since in my own small way I have lived as a volunteer, coach and administrator to play a role in fulfilling the intent of sports diplomacy.

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How Can Civic Media Influence Sport for Development and Peace?

On a recent trip to Southern California, I posted an announcement on my social media account about prepping for travel to the Greater Los Angeles area. In doing so, I expressed interest in meeting with business, government and civic leaders. I knew before leaving on the trip, I would be posting on my blog to share learnings with a wider audience through the lens of sport and culture. What I did not know was, what the content of producing the Youtube video below was going to be and how it might be relevant to sport for development and peace.

Nonetheless, there was history and context behind my visit. My Dad was a salesman in the Middle East and won a competition for selling Uncle Ben’s Rice in his sales territory. Hence, my parents were awarded tickets to watch the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Then in 1993, my parents, sisters and I visited California on a family vacation before we immigrated to the United States in the late 1990s. During the summer of 1984, Miriam, my sister and I stayed in Andover, MA with the Hazarika family. One afternoon, I clearly remember watching Joan Benoit Samuelson on television, become the first American woman to win the inaugural women’s marathon event.

Moving forward, Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics and so there are elements of the video that illustrate the business, government and civic institutions in Los Angeles today. I did not have any official meetings with the representatives that I had hoped for, but still was able to conduct a civic media project for myself through low-budget and low-tech video production. This was done on a day by day basis due to disappointing weather conditions early on in the trip. However things, brightened up both, literally and figuratively, when I reconnected with former classmates from India and the Middle East, discovered new places in California and learned about different cultures, all without leaving the United States (for a change).

What did I learn and how can it help others move forward? Well, thanks to Professor Colin Miles Maclay, a former colleague at Harvard and now Director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California for helping me (without knowing it) that I have been producing various civic media outputs on Youtube for the benefit of being able to (a) to practice active citizenship (b) foster greater understanding of the United States vis-a-vis the rest of the world (c) create fun memories for myself and others to enjoy.

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What Role Can ICTs Play to Improve Sport Governance?

In 2001, the International Year of Volunteers, Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, stated that “volunteerism is the ultimate expression of what the United Nations is all about.” Fifteen years ago, in 2003, I set forth from Boston, Massachusetts on my United Nations Volunteer assignment in Kampala, Uganda under the auspices of the United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) – an initiative envisioned by the Secretary General – to support efforts to bridge the global digital divide. Since returning from my UNV assignment, I continued to be engaged with various volunteer projects in the United States and across the world, with an emphasis on sport for development and peace.

Upon re-reading my 2002 personal statement to the Cisco Least Developed Countries (LDC) Initiative of which UNITeS was a key partner, I am glad to have been asked by the hiring managers to undertake such a writing exercise. Any hiring manager who wants to narrow down their selection of strong candidates, would do well to request a personal statement. Not only does this tool allow for benchmarking but it can also help individuals (and organizations) set future goals. I am making my personal statement public for the purpose of knowledge management to improve education and learning while addressing the challenges of sustainable development, of which ICTs play an important role.

My Pin Collection from United Nations Volunteers (UNV), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and International Olympic Committee (IOC). Photo credit: T.Mohammed, 2018.

In 2018, major news headlines posed big questions about democratic freedoms and the role of the Internet and social media. Through the Kofi Annan Foundation, Kofi Annan founded the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security and recently published an op-ed which addressed the challenges to the integrity of the electoral process for high-income and low-income countries. The findings of the Commission will be released in the coming months. While I have no direct contact with inner workings of the Foundation, the outcomes from the Global Commission can have a significant influence on the political, economic and social systems of international sport governance.

Sport for development and peace is very much at the heart of democratic institutions, such as the International Olympic Committee which strives to promote universal values enshrined in the Olympic Charter. The role of the Internet and social media are often described as tools to provide access to information on programs and projects that uphold Olympic values. I do believe that greater access to information and transparency preserve the integrity of the sport for development and peace sector. However, I also believe in the need for a system of checks and balances in the areas of corruption, terrorism and crime, which the International Center for Sport Security (ICSS) aims to fulfill. ICSS and its partners are identifying weaknesses in systems of sport governance and leveraging ICTs to protect and serve the cause of peace, development and human rights. The Internet and social media will continue to evolve and so citizens will learn to adapt to new ways of living, working and playing.

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Classical Tour of Ancient Greece: Will Squash Ever Make it to the Modern Olympics?

I recently traveled to Greece to expand upon my educational horizon and to deepen my understanding of the field of sport for development and peace. Before flying to Athens I conducted basic desk research with guidebooks and on the internet while consulting a few friends who had prior travel experience in the country. Ancient Greek civilization was not something that was taught in international schools back in the 1980s and 1990s in the Middle East but upon completing my undergraduate government major at Bowdoin College, I had briefly studied the work of Aristotle, Plato and Thucididyes. Of course, traveling to Greece more than 15 years later after graduation meant taking my appreciation for the people, place and culture to another level.

For 3-days, I was a tour group member of Classical Greece that made stops in Athens, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Olympia, and Delphi. The sites that were of most interest to me were Athens and Ancient Olympia. At every stop and corner there was evidence of historical significance. Learning about the details of all the players and events in the Classical Greece period could make for pursuing another educational degree altogether. This is not something that I am interested in doing at the moment, but believe that traveling is one of the greatest educational gifts one can make for oneself. Visiting the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens was moving because in a way it was a pilgrimage for paying homage to my playing and coaching days while helping to find my place in the world.

Tariq Mohammed’s visit to Panathenaic Stadium, Greece 2017. Photo credit: Unknown.

Visiting Ancient Olympia was of even more significance at it is where the Olympic flame for the Olympic Games are lit. I missed watching the ceremony in Ancient Olympia but was able to tour the grounds and see up close the ruins of this UNESCO Heritage Site. The Greeks had incredible foresight to have built such facilities thousands of years ago, but perhaps could do more to restore or renovate them to preserve such attractions today. Like other members of the tour group, I questioned myself. Why did I travel so far to see ruins and rubbles of dirt? As mentioned my approach was from the standpoint of (a) deepening my own understanding of sport for development and peace (b) being a symbolic advocate for squash in the Olympic movement and (c) being a part of something greater than myself and sharing with interesting travelers along the way.

Tariq Mohammed’s visit to Ancient Olympia, Greece, 2017 (Photo Credit: Andy Berbeck).

Through my travels and formal education, I have been influenced by several mentors and teachers which led to taking such a journey. I would like to acknowledge their influence as for doing so would provide greater context for my trip. Thomas Hodgson, former Philosophy instructor at Phillips Academy Andover, Denis Corish, former Philosophy professor at Bowdoin College, Alexis Lyras, Founder and Director of Olympus for Humanity Alliance, and Popy Dimoulas-Graham of Charity Republic, Inc. I am grateful to have been able to take the time to make such a trip and explore a new region of the world for myself and advocate for squash’s inclusion in the Modern Olympic Games.

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My Evolution as a Developmental Coach

Today happens to be my Mom’s birthday and the month in which Mothers are celebrated, among other national and international awareness activities (such as Mental Health Awareness Month). To readers of my blog, I hope you have a few minutes to read this post.

I’ve made a couple of references to my parents on this blog largely because I know it is thanks to them and many others, that I am able to stay healthy, volunteer my time with causes I care about and explore new places and things.

The video above is a culmination of my journey in squash. I have enjoyed every moment of playing, coaching and volunteering in squash at various levels, as well as being a team member on winning and losing teams.

I plan to stay physically active with and without squash, as it definitely keeps me well and balanced. Thanks, Mom and Happy Birthday!

 

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Interdisciplinary Approaches to Sustainable Coaching

On a recent trip to Blacksburg, Virginia to visit Tim Baird, Professor of Geography at Virginia Tech who is a college friend from Maine, we took a hike in Jefferson National Forest. During the hike we encountered stunning natural scenery below and shared ideas and thoughts of our respective academic pursuits. At the outset, let me state that Professor Baird’s academic performance and training has won him many awards and admiration from his students.

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Signpost at Jefferson National Forest Photo credit: T. Mohammed

The 2016 Rio Olympics are being broadcast worldwide so I thought I would add my bit of sporting commentary on elite amateur athletes and the rest of us. Many of the athletes have been training rigorously over 4 years or more and aim to reach peak performance during competition at the Olympics. Michael Phelps, Simone Biles or Katie Ledecky are perfect examples of athletes who are reaching peak performances at this year’s Olympics.

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“Water in Stream” in Jefferson National Forest. Photo credit: T. Mohammed

Just like water in a stream (see photo above), my hike with Professor Baird, reminded me of my graduate school readings by Mihaly Csikzektmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist known for his work on the concept of “flow,” in the field of positive psychology. The concept of “flow” has been applied in sport for development and peace and other disciplines.

According to Cziketmaihalyi and his 2004 TED Talk, everyone, be they an Olympian, student, coach or parent is always striving for their “A” game which means achieving a state of flow and staying in it. While Professor Baird and I are from different academic disciplines – geography and sport for development and peace  respectively- our liberal arts background allowed us to have an interdisciplinary discussion on sustainable coaching.

In Professor Baird’s case he was in the midst of publishing a new research paper on sustainable innovation which we also spoke about in depth. As for me, I am learning how to get “unstuck” and “out of my own way,” to stay in a state of flow in the field of sport for development and peace. Thanks Professor Baird for a terrific visit to Virginia and a meaningful hike!

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