Today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) joins the United Nations and many others in observing the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – an annual reminder that every person is entitled to human rights without any form of discrimination.
Established by the United Nations in 1960, this Day marks the need to continue to tackle racial discrimination, xenophobia, hate speech and hate crimes, ever-present across the world. Through a long-standing partnership with the United Nations, the IOC has been using sport to unite individuals and communities amidst their diversity and promote a culture of peace and humanity.
“Practising sport, without discrimination of any kind, is a human right and a fundamental principle of the Olympic Movement,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “We believe in the power of sport to build bridges between communities, and the Olympic Games are the embodiment of how sport can help stand up against racial discrimination, and unite people from all walks of life.”
In turn, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said: “Words of fear and loathing can, and do, cause real damage. It is my hope that I will one day see every child grow up without racial prejudice. Let us all stand up against discrimination.”
From racial abuse to national praise: an inspiring tale of the power of sport to fight racism
Brazilian judoka Rafaela Silva sparked joyous celebration last August in Rio de Janeiro, host city of the Olympic Games, when she won the women's -57kg competition. Not only was it a landmark moment for Brazil, which was able to celebrate its first gold of the Games, it was also a wonderful triumph for the ability of sport to transform lives.
Four years before, Silva, who is a graduate of the Instituto Reação, an NGO founded by fellow Brazilian judoka Flávio Canto in order to use sport as a tool for social inclusion, saw her Olympic dreams cut short after a disappointing early exit from London 2012. She then rapidly became the target of racist comments on social media, and considered quitting the sport. But the athlete, who hails from the notorious City of God favela, persevered and fought the abuse with her sporting prowess. Silva made a triumphant return in 2013, becoming the first women’s judo world champion from Brazil, and today she is an Olympic champion and national hero.
Taking a stand on human rights
In February, the IOC strengthened its stance on human rights. As part of the implementation of Olympic Agenda 2020, and following consultations with the Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA), the leader of the Olympic Movement adopted new procedures and made changes to the Host City Contract for the Games in 2024 to include a section designed to strengthen provisions protecting human rights in the context of the organisation of the Olympic Games. Read the release here.