An ideal for all continents and all generations
I’d dare to see it as a sign. Last month, just one week apart, the paradigm of peace through sport spread across continents and generations. It was written in the present, and linked to the future. On Sunday 26 August in Pelambang, Sumatra Island, a unified Korean women’s team won a gold medal in the dragon boat final at the Asian Games. It’s the first time that a team of athletes from the entire Korean Peninsula have won a major international multisport competition. The movement that kicked off at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games is gaining momentum. It’s at the top of the podium. Peace through sport in the present.
A week earlier, the 9th edition of the Friendship Games organized by Peace and Sport brought together young people from Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the Great Lakes region of Africa. For three days, from August 17 – 19, more than 150 boys and girls expressed their love of sport whilst sharing the values of solidarity, respect and integrity. 50 coaches and team leaders introduced them to 11 different sports, amounting to 40 categories, made possible by the support and commitment of eight federations and international organizations, representing teqball, judo, baseball, softball, basketball, rugby, karate and table football. Peace through sport in the future.
On the Burundi side of Bujumbura and on the DRC side of Uvira the 2018 Friendship Games gave many underprivileged youngsters the opportunity to play sport, discuss the role of sport in society in a unique and privileged setting, and hear two Champions for Peace, basketball player Isabelle Yacoubou and taekwondo champion Marlene Harnois – both Olympic medallists – talk about their own lives. A week before the historic Korean dragon boat victory at the Asian Games, this event on a basketball court affirmed the power of sport as a tool for integration.
A friendly match was played to mark the opening ceremony, bringing girls and boys from Burundi and the DRC together on the same side. Both teams were mixed and the ball simply blew away the frontiers. This new demonstration of the power of sports diplomacy was witnessed by Congolese Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala, the Minister of Sport Grandpa Nyango.
So what will ensue? I’ve made a wish that sports diplomacy will take front stage at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires this October. The future of the Olympic movement will be written in the Argentinian capital, buoyed up by thousands of young boys and girls who are inspired by the ideal of the Games. Eight months after the two Koreas walked side-by-side at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Games, this sporting and cultural event could offer the perfect ending to an historic year for peace through sport. It’s for young athletes from around the world to seize the opportunity with both hands. It’s for them to demonstrate once again that sport can help build a better world.