Opinion

Joël Bouzou
Peace and Sport President and Founder

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27/11/2016 par Joël Bouzou

Speech on the occasion of Opening Ceremony at the 9th Peace and Sport International Forum

Peace and Sport wants to demonstrate that sport is a tool at the service of global peace. It can be used in places where civil war, ethnic conflicts, natural disasters or extreme poverty condemn any hope of normal life. But what kind of sport are we talking about? It’s a key question.

We’re not talking about top-level competitions organised with fancy equipment for a small number of people. Neither are we talking about sport as simple exercise, without structure or objectives.

No! we are talking about simple organized and supervised activities, which can help integrate people into society. Sport which imposes discipline and respect, where there is no rule left. Sport which re-installs communication where dialog has long been extinguished. Sport which builds bridges where only walls exist. And above all, we’re talking about sport which can be introduced everywhere because it requires only creativity and minimal resources.

The proof is clear; Organised like this, sport is a universal language, it brings social cohesion and international stability and makes sport diplomacy efficient. 

The winning recipe is simple: 

  • Makeshift materials to keep costs down
  • The involvement of an international Federation (volleyball in this case), which can carry the concept everywhere it is needed.
  • A Champion to act as a role model and bring sport within reach of everyone

I can summarize all of this in one slogan that I hope becomes a Peace and Sport keyword: Sport Simple.

Sport Simple is the logical follow up to our Adapted Sports Manual that we launched two years ago, now used by many Federations, associations and NGOs.

Sport Simple is the proof that creativity can transform basic materials found in local environments to make sports equipment out of waste and recycled products. It is about modifying the rules of sport so that they fit to any local conditions. Sport Simple is about capitalising on best practices and “educating educators” to use this new knowledge to reach a global population. Because it works, it has to be developed. Because it’s cheap, it can become global.

To encourage this initiative, next year we’re going to introduce an Award for the most original ‘Sport Simple Solution’. And we will put together all these solutions to build up a new knowledge. Because our final objective is of course to change lives!

To set up a sustainable dialogue in post conflict zones between ethnic communities as we have done in the great lakes region in Africa, to give a family and structure to kids whose parents and grandparents have disappeared in natural disasters such as Haiti. To give an alternative to youth caught by extremist predicators, as we have recently seen. To offer a new future to those affected by extreme poverty.

I’d like to give you another example:

– Phiona Mutesi grew up in the slums of Katwe in Uganda, raised by a single mother. Her father and sister passed away at a young age, so it was just her and two of her brothers. 

The tough circumstances forced her to drop out of school, but she found inspiration when she discovered chess in a Sports Outreach Institute missionary program, even before learning to read or write. Today she is one of her nation’s top chess players and an inspiration to millions of girls everywhere, and especially to girls in a nation where females are particularly marginalized. 

More important than the result or individual promotion, her sport network helped to save her, along with so many others. This is why I warmly congratulate the work of all sports federations – national and international – who are here this evening. Federations who have been collaborating with us over the last nine years, in innovations which have no other objective than using sport for peace.

I’d like to thank the many Champions for Peace among us this evening and all of their fellow Champions who are absent. All Champions who are involved in our projects.

This year they’ve increased their efforts: Sylvia Poll and Pedro Yang with FIVB in Rio, Yelena Isinbaeva in Russia to promote April 6; Benjamin Boukpeti in Togo; Diana Gandega,  Willy Kouyaté and Marc Raquil in their clubs in Parisian and provincial suburbs, and Isaac Angbo on the site of terrorist attacks in Côte d Ivoire. Others were quick to speak up: Pernilla Wiberg during the Women’s trophy; Sylvia Poll at the UNESCO conference, Tegla Loroupe for her dedication to helping refugees. Thanks to Paula Radcliffe for her part in developing our ‘I Move for Peace’ program to mobilise fans.

I also welcome the new Champions for Peace who have just joined us: Benida Nouria Merah, Algerian Olympic Champion in the fifteen hundred metres in Sydney 2000, and Felipe Massa, Formula One racing driver…

Their action is also supported by thousands of Olympians who are a real pillar of the Olympic Family. Thomas Bach himself recently said in Lausanne that “The solid foundations of the Olympic Movement will enable us to meet tomorrow’s challenges.”

Evidence of proof is also to understand, to help and to promote the many field projects originated by local stakeholders.

On April 6, The UN Day on Sport for Development and Peace, 310 projects registered on the Peace and Sport platform and took place in 170 countries over five continents, involving over 35,000 participants. Our #Whitecard initiative involved 15 million participants this year and 28 million since it began 3 years ago.

The message is clear: whether through field projects, sport diplomacy, the involvement of Champions, or the growing force that Peace and Sport represents. Game on for Peace! It is the title of this year’s Forum and it’s an invitation to each and every one of you to take part.

Thank you all for the work that you will carry on into these two coming days. I wish also to thank the council of Europe and UNESCO who have chosen peace and sport this year for the preparation of their strategic meetings about the Macolin Convention and the Sixth Conference of Sport Ministers MINEPS VI.

We began this Opening Ceremony with a tribute to our friend Guo Chuan; I’d like to have a last thought for him to end this speech. As a Chinese professional sailor, he carried the Beijing Olympic Flame in 2008 in Qingdao City, which is the sailing capital of China. It was the first time in the history of the Olympic Games that the Olympic torch was carried on a sailing boat. He also did it in Rio 2016.

Let me quote him: “The Flame continuously brings optimism to a world that it is dealing with war and conflicts. People from all around the world feel hope and get excited about the torch relay. In addition, the Olympic torch relay is a reminder of our transience. It symbolizes both a tangible journey- the Flame travelling from one country to another – and a lifetime journey: the cycle of life from this generation to the next.

Wherever you are, Guo Chuan, you can be sure we’ll go on carrying, as you did, the torch for Peace. Thank you all.

A fragment of the 9th edition Peace and Sport International Forum Opening Ceremony Speech. 

A fragment of the 9th edition Peace and Sport International Forum Opening Ceremony Speech. 

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