Heritage sites are often targeted during wartime – the idea being that by destroying the symbols of a people you destroy something of their identity as well. The genesis of the World Heritage Convention was, partly, as a reaction to the destruction of cultural properties during the First World War (though, of course it wasn’t until 1972 that the World Heritage Convention was created). UNESCO even adopted a specific convention that addressed the targeting and loss of heritage sites during armed conflict. There are numerous recent examples of heritage being a casualty of war – most notably the dynamiting and destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.
However, sport heritage seems to be benign enough to escape targeting – or so I thought. Certainly, sports rivalries can become heated – and often other non-sport heritages will be played out on the pitch (most notably the sectarian divides in some football/soccer rivalries, as well as politics of the India v. Pakistan cricket rivalries come to mind). However, the idea that sport heritage sites and artefacts may be targeted by vandals or rival fans seems a bit far-fetched. However, it was reported this evening that Howard’s Rock – an important symbol for Clemson University’s football program – was vandalized earlier this month. The incident echoes that of the poisoning of the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner at Auburn University in 2011 by a rival fan from Alabama University. It is unclear at this stage whether the vandalism at Clemson was by a rival fan, though given the importance of “The Rock” to Clemson students and fans, it seems likely that this is another case of sport heritage being targeted.