Think peace through Olympic values and sports
In the current geopolitical and socio-cultural landscape with so much violence, hate, and intolerance, the world is finding it hard to be peaceful. The fundamental principles of Olympism and the importance of learning Olympic values are required more than ever before. One of the seven fundamental principles of Olympism states, “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity”.
From the tradition of ‘ekecheiria’ during the ancient Olympic Games to the modern concept of the Olympic Truce, the Olympic movement has always tried to promote peace in society. The Olympic Movement gives us so much hope, that a better world is possible through sports and global interaction in sporting events. The incredible stories of Olympic Games have inspired life beyond sports, whether it the great friendship of Luz Long and Jessie Owens which went much beyond just winning a medal and racial superiority, it is a story of respect, sportsmanship and fair play or the extra-ordinary human effort to pursue excellence by Shun Fujimoto to win a gold medal in men’s artistic gymnastics for Japan in 1976, Montreal Games with a broken knee.
The core values of the Olympic Games – Friendship, Respect, and Excellence can play a great role to promote ideas of solidarity, non-violence, tolerance, justice, and the sheer joy of effort in the world. Together it can make human minds THINK PEACE, unless the world is thinking peace we won’t be able to bring the required positive social change globally. As it is important in sports to catch and train them young, similarly I always felt in peace-building it is important to teach our children about peace before someone else teaches them about hate and violence. We need to catch them young here too. I realized nothing can be a more powerful tool to educate children about peace than sports.
I remember in September 2016 sitting in the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) in Geneva with Ms. Sheila Cleo Mogalo (UNOSDP Programme Officer – Project Support) and ideating a project for children which will also educate them about Olympic values, peace through sport and more importantly make them THINK PEACE. We realized when children as young as six or seven years think, they don’t necessarily think in words but think in pictures. There came the idea of creating a sport and art project to capture the thought process of children. Interestingly, both are activities which children generally love.
In Kolkata, India, my hometown, when I discussed the concept of sport and art, very few thought it to be a good idea but my high school principal Rev. Father Sebastian James s.j. immediately gave me support to launch a sport and art project by the name ‘Expression’ on St. Lawrence High School platform in Kolkata on Olympic Day, June 23, 2017. We started receiving a lot of support from national and international organizations, not necessarily in kinds but in spirits which were very encouraging for us. We reached out to more than 71 countries through Educate Magis in the first year with participation reaching more than 2500 children from all over the world and in the next couple of years we enhanced our reach including to the refugee kids in Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan and JRS refugees in Africa.
This program helped children to THINK PEACE. Mr. Roald Bradstock member of the Olympic Culture and Heritage Commission and also known as ‘Olympic Picasso’ obliged our request to be the event ambassador and we also had Ms. Dianne De Navacelle, a descendant of Pierre de Coubertin representing Pierre de Coubertin Family Association in Kolkata. Trisshan Das, a nine-year-old boy, one of the many participants of ‘Expression’ from St. Lawrence High School, Kolkata gave a moving speech on Peace through Sport and how ‘Expression’ helped him to THINK PEACE at the Peace and Sport International Forum in Monaco during December 2017. (Video of the speech)
During the FIH Men’s Field Hockey World at Bhubaneswar, India in November-December, 2018, with help of a citizen’s forum of India and Pakistan called PIPFPD, I designed a sport and art program called ‘Aman Dosti’, which means Peace and Friendship, wherein Indian and Pakistani children wished each other’s team best of luck with the whole idea to make children of these two nations THINK PEACE, and maybe resolve the problems and differences in future which generations before them failed for years. The program was a massive success in terms of participation from both countries and we also had participation from children of Indo-Pak diaspora around the world. We even got messages from children on peace and friendship, like from a little 6-year-old Indian girl living in Canada asking why she can’t visit Pakistan, while a 7-year-old boy from Pakistan wanted to see Virat Kohli, the Indian cricket captain and his favorite player to come and play in Pakistan.
Recently in April 2020, it was encouraging to see the International Fair Play Committee organize an online Sports and Art competition on the theme of Fair Play, COVID, and Sports during COVID. It was not only encouraging to see massive participation from all over the world but also to see learnings these kids imbibed about COVID and their innovative ideas. In the whole process, they also became educated about Fair Play.
Let us come together and help the children of today to THINK PEACE for a better peaceful world tomorrow by spreading the power of sport and Olympic values. Marlene Harnois OLY, Champion for Peace, Peace and Sport pointed out, “Sport is far more than a form of entertainment. It is also a potential catalyst for the promotion of education and culture beyond being essential to human development.”