Thinking Images v.22: Sport, war and a fantasy


Iran marked it’s defense week last Thursday with a vast display of units and hardware. Among the photographs of the parade was this rather odd image. I saw it in print in the South China Morning Post, Reuters carried it in their spot news slideshow, and it was also captured in this
UPI gallery of the military parade

None of the captions cast any light on the reason for this units’ striking outfits. Resembling the British television game show “Gladiators,” where participants battled each other with padded implements, these soldiers were very different from their conventionally attired comrades. The picture is testament to the photographer’s eye for the exotic, the distinctive, the unexpected.

One detail that stands out is the Addidas logo on each blue or red vest. Is part of the Iranian army sponsored by the European sports wear company? More than unlikely, but it points nonetheless to the close relationship of sport and war. Think of the military metaphors that permeate sport (such as ‘battles’ over ‘territory)’, and the sport analogies present in the reporting of war (famously including General Schwarzkopf’s ‘hail Mary’ pass in the 1991 Gulf War).

The photograph also prompts a fantasy. What if international conflict was resolved through game shows? Any prospective regional clash with Iran might see ‘the Addidas unit’ take on their opponents over three rounds. It would certainly beat another war.

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