A reminder about the importance of sport as heritage and culture


March 1, 2022

Spoiler alert: This is not a political column per se. At least it’s not intended to be.

The politics is best reserved to support a fundamental belief that some of the most important dollars the Provincial Government of British Columbia, BC municipalities and the Federal Government of Canada spend relate to their investments in sport, recreation, and active living. I’ll leave the politics – which I believe to be the most positive of politics — to the power of sport as a builder of strong and healthy communities in British Columbia and across Canada. I’ll save the political columns for the tireless advocacy of sport as an essential fabric of society – for British Columbians and Canadians — and for the ongoing promotion of sport history, sport heritage and sport culture by our Board of Trustees and management team at the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Yet this week, I can’t help but frame this month’s note to you – our BC Sports Hall of Fame family – in blue and yellow; the colours of Ukraine and Ukrainians. They represent the blue of the country’s eastern European sky and the yellow of the fields of wheat, corn and other crops that make Ukraine one of the world’s most important agricultural hubs. It is on many fronts the leading breadbasket on the planet. Blue and yellow are also synonymous with many of the most iconic of Ukrainian symbols, from the country’s flag and its coat of arms to the uniforms of many of its national sports teams.

It is against that backdrop of blue and yellow that I dedicate this month’s message to the courage of Ukrainians (and to those Russians who take great risk in protesting against their own government’s unsettling invasion of Ukraine).

There is of course nothing more important than the preservation of the lives of Ukrainian civilians who haven’t already tragically died in the invasion, one that is quickly transforming itself into a humanitarian catastrophe.

Yet behind all the political, economic, and psychological warfare that has dominated the past week, Ukrainians have given us another important lesson this week: That the preservation of a country’s culture is of foundational importance.

An increasingly important storyline coming out of Ukraine is the damage that the invasion has done, is doing and could do to the many layers of culture that define the Ukrainian legacy. That applies to the architecture and buildings in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Odessa and other major Ukrainian cities. It is true of the country’s art galleries, museums, theatres, opera houses, concert halls, arenas, stadiums and other sports facilities. It encompasses the millions of artifacts – sculptures, paintings, photographs, books, antiques, fabrics and instruments — that reflect, express and pay tribute to the evolution of Ukrainian society.

Like many of you, I’ve been struck by the deep-rooted, unbridled and fierce love of country that has been conveyed by Ukrainians, not only in their words but more importantly in their actions. Yet I’ve also been truly touched by the desperate efforts being made to protect and preserve the archives of Ukrainian society. There are many working against enormous odds to preserve these embodiments of the arts, music and sports, three important pillars of Ukrainian culture; or any culture for that matter.

The best efforts to protect the millions of artifacts of Ukrainian culture is an important message to all of us, including those of us entrusted to promote sport history, heritage, and culture – here in B.C. and Canada or anywhere in the world.

For all of us who are part of the BC Sports Hall family, it is a reminder of the role we cherish and the responsibility we honour as storytellers and custodians of BC sport history, even if that history is so relatively short and recent when compared to the more than 1,100-year timeline associated with a long-standing European nation such as Ukraine.

The courage that Ukrainians have demonstrated to the world this week is nothing short of remarkable. The pride they’ve shown in their cultural symbols and artifacts is a challenge to all of us to step up. It is certainly a powerful force as we curate our own collection of over 27,000 artifacts, 100,000 archival documents and photographs and dozens of galleries, exhibits and displays spanning more than a century and a half of sporting accomplishments and the indigenous roots of sport that predate and transcend those 150 years.

Those of us associated with the BC Sports Hall of Fame often speak of our mission – one centered on creating outstanding community legacies by honouring the past and inspiring the future. This week, that is precisely what Ukrainians have done in the grandest of ways in the most challenging of circumstances possible. We not only hold up hope for their future; we thank them for further inspiring us to never take our own for granted.

Tom Mayenknecht, Chair
BC Sports Hall of Fame

Tom Mayenknecht is the Chair of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. A principal at Emblematica Brand Builders in Vancouver and a nationally-recognized sport business commentator and founder and host of The Sport Market sport business radio show, he is a strong advocate for KidSport, Right To Play and other children’s charities. He is also a member of the Ringette Canada Hall of Fame as a builder and Chair of the Paul Carson Sports Broadcast & Media Awards.