As the world celebrates the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) today, 6 April, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) underlines the paramount role that sport plays in supporting global recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sport is ready to contribute to building a more human-centred and inclusive society,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “This crisis has made it clearer than ever that sport is the low-cost, high-impact tool par excellence for all countries in their recovery efforts.”
The role of sport in building back better
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated the importance of sport and physical activity in helping countries, communities and individuals navigate these challenging times by staying physically and mentally fit, and thus becoming more resilient.
In December 2020, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted by consensus the resolution “Sport as an enabler of sustainable development”, which called on Member States to include sport and physical activity in post-COVID-19 recovery plans. This call has also been echoed by the Sports Ministers of the 27 European Union (EU) Member States.
“Sport and physical activity contribute directly to physical and mental health, and to combating both non-communicable and communicable diseases”, said President Bach. “Sport has great social significance by being the glue which bonds communities together. Sport plays a significant economic role; it creates jobs, generating business activity. In short, sport is contributing to the recovery from the crisis on the health, social and economic levels,” he concluded.
The call for more solidarity
For the UN, the IDSDP provides an opportunity to recognise the role that sport plays in building resilience and in the recovery from the pandemic. As part of its #OnlyTogether campaign, the UN has marked the day by further promoting the need for fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, so that the world can once again enjoy the benefits of sport together.
Supporting that effort, the IOC has for its part signed up to the “Vaccine Equity Declaration” of the World Health Organization, and has encouraged National Olympic Committees to follow its lead.
“We are all still learning every day, but I hope very much that the first lesson we all learn from this crisis is: we need more solidarity. Solidarity within societies, and solidarity among societies,” Bach said. “Solidarity is at the heart of the Olympic Games, which unite the world in all its diversity,” he added.
In a spirit of solidarity, the IOC has continued to provide support to refugee athletes who are training to be part of the Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020, but also to the refugee community at large through the work of the Olympic Refuge Foundation. The Foundation has already reached over 200,000 displaced young people and their host communities, with the aim of reaching one million people by 2024.
Tokyo 2020: the light at the end of the tunnel
With less than four months to go until the postponed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the IOC also continues to work closely with all its stakeholders to ensure that this year’s Games can provide a powerful symbol of hope during these unprecedented and challenging times.
“We are working at full speed with our Japanese partners and friends to make the postponed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 a great demonstration of solidarity,” said the IOC President. “Together with the Japanese Government, the Organising Committee and many more, we are preparing for all 206 National Olympic Committees to come together in a safe environment in Tokyo, to give a signal of hope and resilience to all humankind. In this way, the Olympic flame can be the light at the end of the dark tunnel that we are currently in.”
Creating a historical link to the first modern Olympic Games, which began 125 years ago on 6 April 1896, the UN General Assembly declared in 2013 that 6 April would be the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, which has now been celebrated each year since 2014. The IDSDP is an annual celebration of the power of sport to drive social change and community development, and to foster peace and understanding.