Opinion

Joël Bouzou
Peace and Sport President and Founder

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08/05/2015 par Joël Bouzou

Global Leaders Bringing A New Dynamic For Peace Through Sport

It didn’t take long for Thomas Bach to find his bearings when stepping into his new shoes as IOC President, and to give the function a personal touch. Since his election in September 2013 in Buenos Aires, the German leader has given the role a new diplomatic dimension; one that brings Olympism closer to current social issues around the globe.

A long-time supporter of Peace and Sport, and regular participant in our International Forum, the IOC President has always firmly believed in the power of sport. This tireless globetrotter of the Olympic movement speaks not only of games, legacy and the implementation of Agenda 2020 with partners, heads of state and governments – he evokes the role that sport should play in the development of society, emphasizing that it can be a driver of peace.

Bach’s actions speak as loud as his words: just over six months after his election, he joined United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the UN Headquarters in New York to sign an agreement underlining that the IOC and the UN “share the same values of contributing to a better and peaceful world through sport” with the aim of strengthening collaboration between the two organizations. It was also on this occasion that Bach appointed former IOC President Jacques Rogge as UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Youth Refugees and Sport.

In April 2015, Thomas Bach again carried the words of peace through sport during his successive visits to the UN General Assembly in New York, Serbia and Kosovo, the latter country recognised only last December by the Olympic movement. Thomas Bach followed up with a meeting in Sochi with President Vladimir Putin and in Lausanne with Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine. Bach reminded the Ukrainian that the IOC had released, the previous year, an emergency fund of 300,000 dollars to help the country’s athletes continue their training despite on-going conflicts.

I am happy to see the evolution of discourse from leaders such as Thomas Bach as well as some International Federation Presidents. Peace and Sport has been preaching, acting and working on this development worldwide for nearly a decade. Since its creation in 2007, the organization advocates for the development of sustainable peace through sport, its values ​​and its rules on all levels. Today, some leaders such as Bach have seized on this. Let us hope that the sport for development and peace message reaches further with more stakeholders offering opportunities for the movement to gain influence and impact, especially among political leaders.

Diplomacy is one thing, the field is another. We must continue to advocate and open doors for peace through sport on a political level within the IOC, the United Nations and heads of state. But we must take this further by leading concrete action with disadvantaged and developed regions alike. Peace and Sport lends year-round support to programs in Colombia, Burundi, Rwanda, DRC and most recently, Mali, which I will use to illustrate my above point. The First Lady of Mali Keïta Aminata Maïga joined us at our 2013 International Forum in Monaco. During the event we exchanged on the social challenges faced by the country, and sport’s potential to promote and build peace there. Today only a few years forward, we share this same vision and I was delighted to be in Bamako last week to lay the foundations of a wide-reaching national project focusing on adapted sport activities. Peace through sport is possible and it is by having influential voices for the movement such as Dr. Thomas Bach and H.E. Mrs Keïta Aminata Maïga that we will achieve our goal.

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