International Day of Sport celebrated worldwide with messages of peace
Showcasing the power of sport to help build a better and more peaceful world, International Federations, National Olympic Committees, other organisations and individuals around the world joined the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations (UN) in marking the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) on 6 April.
The third edition of the IDSDP saw a mobilisation both on the virtual channels and in the flesh at the local, national and international level. This year’s key message: the power of sport to drive social change, unite people and promote a culture of peace.
The IOC showcased inspiring projects and athletes fighting for peace in Rio de Janeiro, fostering reconciliation and unity through sport in Rwanda, and a remarkable Pakistani-Indian tennis duo demonstrating how sport can transcend borders.
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Countries from Bangladesh to Bermuda, Ghana to Guatemala, Cape Verde to Costa Rica, and from Tonga to Turkey also voiced their support for the IDSDP. Activities included conferences and seminars; sports demonstrations and activities; and inaugurations of sports facilities. In Chile, for example, a new sports centre, which will benefit over 120 children from disadvantaged areas, was opened. There was also tree-planting on the premises of the Nepal Olympic Committee with the assistance of Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace.
For the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), the International Day of Sport marked an ideal opportunity to “highlight the contribution of sport to Africa’s emergence” and to call upon “the African Olympic and Sport Movement as well as State leaders to celebrate the values of sport” and to increasingly consider its role in public development policies and post-conflict management so as to foster peace.
International Sports Federations also got involved and showcased how their sports are making a positive contribution to society. For instance, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) demonstrated how it is using hockey to promote peace and well-being in communities. An example cited was the organisation of hockey tournaments at the IOC’s Sport for Hope Centre in Haiti. The International Association Football Federation (FIFA) highlighted the daily work of hundreds of organisations that its Football for Hope initiative supports across the world, and committed itself to extending the reach of this global social development initiative. For the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), 6 April was further cause for celebration as it marked the second edition of World Table Tennis Day.
Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis advocate sport’s positive social impact
For last week’s IDSDP, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote a message in which he urged “governments, organisations, businesses, and all actors in society to harness the values and power of sport to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. By working – and playing – together, we can create the future we want.”
Similarly, in his traditional remarks at the General Audience on St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis invited the 40,000 people gathered together to celebrate the IDSDP. He said: “Sport is a universal language that brings together people, and can help persons meet and overcome conflicts. Therefore I encourage you to live the sporting dimension as the gym of virtue in the full development of individuals and communities.”
In turn, the Chair and Founder of Generations for Peace, IOC Member HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein, published a message on “sport for peaceful coexistence in refugee host communities”, recognising the unique role sport can play in strengthening resilience and social cohesion in the world’s most fragile communities. He also underlined that, through the various programmes undertaken by Generations for Peace, “we have seen the transformative power of sport as an innovative tool to engage meaningful youth participation in building peace”.
In the Olympic year of 2016, there will be many more opportunities to highlight the power of sport to promote solidarity and tolerance not only among participants in the Games, the fans and the local community in Rio de Janeiro, but also among people all over the world.