Although the beneficial effects of sport for development are still not exploited to their full extent, sport can help bridge cultural and ethnic divides, create jobs and businesses, promote tolerance and non-discrimination, reinforce social integration, and advocate healthy lifestyles. Through sports development, we can achieve wider human development goals.
Although sports development cannot be a panacea to solve all the issues of society nor a priority compared to life-subsistence needs of disadvantaged communities, it can generate many positive effects and be a valuable tool for development. It is both a means and an end in itself.
Social integration and identity-building of minorities
For those who benefit from these programmes, sport is able to unite where differing national passions, politics, religion and culture often divide. It can foster social integration and identity-building of minorities and marginalised groups such as street children, child soldiers, ethnic groups or people suffering from HIV & AIDS. Sport can also support local economic development and create jobs though the numerous income-generating activities that are linked to its practice.
"A few months after the black September that reduced our country to ashes, a football match took place. A soccer field with goal posts but no nets, with pot holes five times the size of a ball visible everywhere, saw a huge crowd gathering to watch their elected spectacle. The atmosphere cleared from then on. The country became alive and veered to a new direction. It was the magic of sport in action." Joao Viegas Carrascallao, President of the National Olympic Committee of Timor Leste.
Sport also conveys positive messages and influences behaviour, just as it can promote self-esteem and interpersonal skills among people, especially young people and women. It can fight discrimination and raise awareness about women's rights and issues, as well as enable communities at odds to build bridges among themselves. It helps the healing process in populations overcoming trauma and brings joy and fun to brighten up their lives. It can alleviate the negative effects of poverty.
As an integral part of basic education, sport supports mental and physical health and instils in people the discipline of physical activity. It can be a useful platform for preventive and peer education against HIV and AIDS and other major illnesses affecting populations and high-risk health groups. It reaches out to young people of all social groups.
Participation in sport is a right that every human being should enjoy without hindrance, just like playing is for children.
Be it in a more formal or informal manner, development through sport has gained recognition and a place on the agenda of the international community, leading to numerous project implementations at all levels with the sports community, although much more needs to be done. Sports development can have a place in the overall national development policy. And so much more needs to be done in this path.