In our society today, it can be easily said that sports and athletes are idolized and worshipped around the world. Fans travel around the world to watch tennis matches and professional soccer games to be a part of something that inspires them. While some may see sport as just another aspect of the entertainment industry, others regard it a medium in which people of all nationalities, race, religions, and social classes unite and learn qualities such as respect, equality, and inclusion.
While many officials say that sports have a transformative power, the UN has taken that into consideration in order to fuse sports into global development policy and rhetoric. On August 23, the UN General Assembly established an International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. The Day is to be celebrated every year of the sixth of April, the same date of the opening of the first modern Olympic Games in Athens nearly more than a century ago.
The UN General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic dubbed the proclamation as “historic,” adding that “sport has a unique power to attract, mobilize and inspire people around the world…can also serve as a formidable development tool.” Jeremic also mentioned that as the Assembly continues to establish post-2015 development policy, the values present in sport would help them outline the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge was also present at the meeting, further embodying the long-standing relationship the IOC and UN have towards utilizing sport as a vehicle for social change. The two global organizations have also collaborated on numerous projects such as the organization of the International Forum on Sport for Peace and Development, which concluded its third annual meeting earlier this June. At the meeting, Rogge acknowledged the positive impact that sports can have on people living in the developed world.
“Sport with values is a gateway to cultural understanding, education, health and economic and social development…It provides an alternative to conflict and delinquency. It can bring hope and a sense of purpose to refugees, impoverished communities and other people in need,” he said.
As mentioned by officials, sports can act as a universal language and exemplify the qualities necessary for the future of global development including social responsibility and equality.
Even top tennis player Novak Djokovic agreed as he joined in the applause of the initiative at the Assembly meeting, saying that sport “can break cycles of mistrust and hatred.” Djokovic, a UNICEF ambassador and has his own children’s foundation, specifically commented on the benefits that sport can have for disadvantaged youth, adding that “when we encourage kids to dream big and work hard, we can make a tangible difference in their lives.”
– Elisha-Kim Desmangles