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MEETING of RIMINI/ Sports and Performances: A Taste of the Infinite



Suzanne Lewis


lunedì 6 settembre 2010


The cultural exhibits and expert speakers at the annual Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, held in Rimini each August, draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to the massive conference center on the Adriatic coast of Italy; however, not every visitor to the Meeting is looking for a deeper understanding of mathematics or richer knowledge regarding the history of Hungary. An interview with one visitor revealed a surprising motive for attending the Meeting: “The bungee trampoline!!” exclaimed Sylvie Lewis, age 8.

The bungee trampoline is one of many athletic and sports opportunities offered in the “Sports Village,” which makes up a portion of the Meeting. There, visitors can find a full-sized beach volleyball court, complete with sand; an indoor soccer field and a basketball court; over-sized chess and checkerboards, with pieces that players must lift and carry to move; a course for in-line skating and another course where small children can learn to ride a bicycle; as well as many other athletic activities. Volunteers at several of these locations offer instruction and coaching to the visitors who approach.

A superficial observer might imagine that these sporting activities are offered in order to occupy and distract the children and the “uncultured;” but this would be a false conclusion. In fact, sports are proposed as an integral aspect of this extraordinary cultural festival. The theme of the Meeting, which this year was “That nature which pushes us to desire great things is the heart,” is posted on large and prominent signs, all around the Sports Village.

A visit to this section of the Meeting simply offers another opportunity to participate in the same truth and the same reality being explored in the exhibit on the Solidarity Movement in Poland in 1980 or in the talk given by the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, to name only two examples.

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In the Sports Village, evidence of the human heart, pushing us to desire great things, can be seen everywhere. In the face of a 6-year-old girl learning to ride a bicycle, or in the eyes of an 11-year-old boy who begins to pick up speed on his skates, one can see that the entire person’s thirst for an ideal has come alive. Participation in games and sports offers the opportunity to seek solutions to particular problems, and in this process, the heart awakens and discovers new frontiers, further shores beyond what it had originally imagined possible; the guides at the exhibit on Mathematics have another way to illustrate this same observation! This glimpse of the Beyond, while one’s entire mind and body are fully engaged, offers a taste of the Infinite.

 

Lest anyone should believe that sports at the Meeting are only for children, numerous sports competitions -- a bicycle race that begins in Rimini and includes a pass through the Republic of San Marino, a triathlon (as well as a mini triathlon for kids), basketball and fencing (and even rugby) tournaments, and a 6 Km race -- are offered throughout the week; and among the many speakers, sports commentators provide lectures on the history of sporting events, as well as about the intersection between sports and life, to packed audiences. Here, sports receives the full dignity of a cultural endeavor with the potential to provoke and challenge the human heart.

 

In addition to sports, the Meeting in Rimini includes a “Villaggio Ragazzi” or children’s village: a vast hall (as large as the one for sports), which houses exhibits, puppet theaters, games for smaller children, craft and art areas for both free art and special projects led by volunteers, on-going clown shows and plays, as well as musical entertainment and sing-alongs. At these performances, the children incline forward in their chairs, even sometimes creeping out of their seats altogether to arrive almost at the feet of the performers. With their curious gazes fixed on a magician’s hat or trying to penetrate into the clown’s secret box, they do not attempt to hide their expectation and trust that something amazing will suddenly appear.

 

 

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And this same gaze, though perhaps a little more guarded and uncertain, may be found among the adults in the audiences at the plays, concerts, dramatic readings, and film screenings offered each evening at the Meeting. Here are a few of the many performances that took place during the week-long festival: Caligula and the Moon, a black and white film; a chamber music concert and the screening of a documentary film about the Russian pianist Marija Judina, who stood up to Stalin without suffering serious repercussions because he was so moved by her music; a dramatic reading of some correspondence between the American author Flannery O’Connor and a young university student; a two-act play about Federico Fellini; a Samba concert given by residents of a favela in Brazil; the screening of a Polish film on Fr. Popieluszko called It Is Not Possible to Kill Hope; rock (as well as folk, country and soul music) concerts; a screening of the Disney film Up; and a dramatic reading of Giacomo Leopardi’s poetry by a famous Italian actor, Giancarlo Giannini.

 

If the Meeting were to arouse the heart’s expectation for great things, while yet failing to indicate where or how to discover them, then the entire undertaking would be a cruel joke on the hundreds of thousands of people who traveled to Rimini over the course of the week. At each outstanding exhibit, in each moment of athletic participation or observation, in the course of the cultural lectures or at the various performances, the heart’s desire received a response: that a free and passionate engagement with reality reveals not only that all is a gift, but it also offers a brief glimpse of the One who gives.



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