IOC Young Ambassador Stephanie Au (HKG) joined a panel of experts at a special UNESCO event held in Nanjing, China, to discuss how today’s youth can use sport to make a difference and shape their futures.
The World Youth Forum on Sport, Culture and Peace, jointly hosted with the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (NYOGOC), was held during the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games (YOG); a unique platform for 3,800 athletes and other participants from across the world to gather together, compete against one another, share their experiences and learn from each other.
As one of 104 Young Ambassadors for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games selected by their National Olympic Committees, Stephanie was tasked with ensuring her athletes got the most out of their YOG experience by taking part in the culture and education activities on themes such as healthy cooking, anti-doping, time management and media training.
Paying tribute to the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games and addressing the value of sport in inspiring and empowering young people as well as uniting them through shared values, UNESCO invited the IOC Young Ambassador to speak of sport as a tool for development, peace and social inclusion. As an Olympian, a student and a young citizen actively engaged in spreading the Olympic spirit, Stephanie shared her experience and views on the positive role sport and athletes can play in society.
“As a Young Ambassador at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games, I have had the opportunity to meet inspiring young people from five continents and to build friendships”, stated the 22-year-old. “I have experienced first-hand the power of sport in bridging divides, in bringing people together and in instilling values such as fair play, respect and friendship.”
In a release published on the occasion of the World Youth Forum, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova echoed sport’s and culture’s capacity to empower, unite and drive social change: “We must craft new ways to support youth by leveraging the transformative power of culture and sport. These fundamental forms of human expression reflect values at the core of the Olympic Movement, which are essential for tolerance and solidarity.”
Other International Organisations, such as UNAIDS, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Federation, the International Fair-Play Committee, the International Olympic Academy and the International Olympic Truce Center, have also been able to introduce young athletes and local young people to the benefits and positive values of sport as well as foster their interest and understanding of global issues, through their activities in the framework of the YOG Culture and Education Programme.
Last week, fellow IOC Young Ambassador Hamza Chraibi was also invited to join a UNAIDS panel on Inclusive Partnerships for Health, Sports and Development through South-South and Triangular Cooperation alongside IOC International Cooperation and Development Director Lindsay Glassco, to highlight the importance of the engagement of young people and the sports community in the fight against HIV/AIDS
Sport: a tool for positive change and social inclusion
As stated in the Olympic Charter and as demonstrated across a wide variety of projects and programmes coordinated or supported by the IOC around the world, sport is and can be an effective tool to promote and further social and individual change. It is an integrative force that facilitates dialogue within and between communities, and breaks down barriers.
Making sport a reality for social inclusion requires expert partners who deal with social issues on a daily basis. The IOC has been able to count on many partners over the years, in particular, the United Nations and its various agencies and programmes, with which it has long-standing cooperation. UNESCO is one such agency which has often joined forces with the IOC in the areas of culture, promotion of physical education and sport for development. Although the UN and the IOC have very different roles in society, they share many core values and work together to put sport and physical activity at the service of human development.