Sylvia Poll
Champion for Peace, Swimming Olympic Gold Medallist

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22/07/2019 par Sylvia Poll

“New technologies have made sport more inclusive”

“Sport is changing. It’s changing quickly, faster than ever. With the arrival of new technologies, it has never been so global, connected and shared. The last Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 were the most digital in history. Two years later, the PyeongChang Winter Games tested 5G at a global sports event for the first time. The next Tokyo Games in 2020 are set to be the most innovative in history in terms of communication and information technologies. In Paris 2024, organizers will give audiences the chance to participate in some events in virtual reality, such as sailing and cycling. The ball is rolling and there’s no stopping it now.

These changes positively affect all areas of sport. Nowadays, new media and digital platforms enable major competitions to reach wider audiences, more than ever before. They are accessible to everyone. An athlete’s emotion, whether in victory or defeat, becomes the emotion of us all. New technologies are also improving sport facilities. Technical progress benefits Paralympic athletes as well. It helps them on a daily basis: in their training and in their everyday lives.

Faster, higher, stronger and above all, more united and inclusive. New technologies not only help to increase the vibrancy of sports events around the globe. They also amplify the role of sport as a tool for development and peace. It enables the greatest number of spectators to see how sport can change the lives and destinies of people. This phenomenon is even more profound in the Paralympic movement, where social media let us share the heroic journeys, courage and sacrifices of Paralympic athletes. Their stories are a source of inspiration to everyone.

In August 2016, the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team competed at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. This initiative will be repeated – even expanded – at the Tokyo Games next year. In September 2017, the International Olympic Committee launched the Olympic Refuge Foundation in its commitment to further support refugees. Thanks to the unprecedented media impact of the 2016 Olympics Games, the world found out about their past and their personal histories. Ten young men and women who fled their countries in search of protection. Ten talented athletes who never gave up. Social media helped share their stories, which gave them international recognition. Using new technologies, audiences could follow their performances at the Games in real time, by streaming. And, above all, people around the world understood the decisive role that sport had played in their lives as refugees.

I know the meaning of the word migrant. My family emigrated from Germany to Nicaragua, where I was born. In 1979, the war in Nicaragua forced us to leave that country and abandon everything behind us. We found support and open arms in Costa Rica. My sister Claudia and I learned how to build a new life where sport had a decisive impact. We discovered swimming in Costa Rica. Swimming made Olympians of both of us. Sport helped us greatly to integrate and become part of our host country, Costa Rica. Swimming opened doors and gave us many exciting opportunities.

Throughout my personal journey, sport has taught me many important values and life lessons, as it still does today: passion, discipline, perseverance, respect for rules and others, the sense of sharing, being part of a team and the significance of hard work to achieve my goals. In a swimming pool, as in any playing field, sport has a unique role as a catalyst. It unites men and women of all nationalities and backgrounds around the same passion. It breaks down barriers. New technologies are enhancing the unique role that sport can play and making it even more inclusive.”

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