As Calgary starts making plans to watch the FIFA final on Sunday I thought it was a good time for this article. Sports have played a vital role in the development of societies through out history. Now some of you might be skeptical and ask what do sports have to do with the UN? Why would we invest resources in sports when there are a million and one compelling challenges that we face as a society?
I love watching and playing sports because of the sense of community it brings with it. Don’t get me wrong sport is a complicated phenomenon. Sometimes it can leads to violence, with the occasional head butting and biting incidents rather than promoting peace and good competition. However, if monitored carefully, sport has a unique ability to inspire, mobilize and bring people together in a healthy competitive environment.
Human rights are at the core of sports; as players or spectators a diverse group people are brought together far removed from the social inequalities they face in life. It does not matter where they are from, what they believe in, whether they are rich or poor. Studies have been done that show that sport is a powerful and low cost tool that has a high impact and can be used to rebuild communities.
Historically, organizations have used sports and famous sportsmen and women to raise awareness or funds about important causes. The UN is one of these organizations, with numerous celebrity ambassadors supporting them, such as Maria Sharapova and Lionel Messi, to name a few.
In 1978, UNESCO described sport and physical education as a “fundamental right for all”. But until today, the right to play and sport has too often been ignored. For the UN, the focus is on reaching out to those most in need and using sports to rebuild social networks, unify people, promote hope and tolerance and resolve conflicts.
We live in a world that is overwhelmed by negative stories, ranging from poverty to conflict and war. Sometimes it is just nice to hear or read something positive and replenish our faith in international friendship and cooperation.
Just recently the Algerian football team announced that they would donate their world cup prize money to Gaza because “they need it more than us.” Also, how can we forget the Canadian coach’s act of kindness in the cross-country skiing at the Olympics, which warmed the hearts of the entire nation?
While it is not an all-purpose cure, sports possess the ability to stimulate resilience, in people and society. Now let’s be peaceful and enjoy the final game on Sunday-Go Germany!