Opinion

Joël Bouzou
Peace and Sport President and Founder

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27/04/2020 par Joël Bouzou

True Power of Sport Revealed for the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace

“Does the exceptional cause the extraordinary? The #WhiteCard campaign initiated by Peace and Sport on April6, the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, took place in exceptional circumstances this year. The coronavirus pandemic has prevented mass gatherings in many countries. The majority of the world’s population is living in a state of confinement. But the results of this campaign aimed at promoting global solidarity and unity were extraordinary. It reached more than 117 million people on social networks. The new record set last year, of 98 million Internet users worldwide, was again broken. The 100 million mark was exceeded for the first time.

Like our Champions for Peace, more mobilized than ever in this year when the whole world is facing a virus with devastating impact, the sports movement, governments, major international organisations and civil society showed its willingness to join in. We at Peace and Sport were already sure of its unity, engagement and spirit of solidarity. But we didn’t imagine that the current circumstances would concede such an outcome. We were concerned that confinement, isolation and fears about the future would hinder initiatives, especially the more individual ones. But they didn’t. The  #WhiteCard 2020 campaign by far exceeded our expectations.

Once again, our champions headed the movement and acted as role models. His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco, Patron of Peace and Sport, led by example in launching the campaign. He called for the mobilization of Olympians as well as governing bodies. Our Vice-President Didier Drobga was outstanding, as was Tony Estanguet and Christian Karembeu. In Greece, former weightlifter Pyrros Dimas created a national momentum for exercising at home, providing practical solutions and concrete ideas. His initiative was welcomed by the Prime Minister. Many champions used their charisma and their celebrity to appeal to people to respect the rules of confinement and social distancing.

Sports institutions also spread the message. Some of the most engaged to April6, such as the International Judo Federation (IJF), the International Table Tennis Foundation and World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO), displayed commitment and mobilization that was equal to, if not greater than, previous years. The International Federation of Mixed Martial Arts (IMMAF) and the European Olympic Committees (EOC), one of the most recent to join us, participated in the campaign with admirable motivation. Together, we once again proved that sport can help bring people together, beyond social, racial or religious differences, especially in times of isolation. The #WhiteCard 2020 campaign illustrates a paradox: even in confinement, people continue to exist in groups. They can do it through sport.

Elsewhere, international organizations such as the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and UNESCO participated in the #WhiteCard campaign alongside with governments such as the Foreign Affairs of Mexico, the Ministry of Youth and Sport of Portugal and the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of Georgia, creating national dynamics and generating tremendous support to the #WhiteCard campaign.

Beyond the figures alone, as exceptional as they may be, what I want to remember from this campaign is the will and desire of everyone to give meaning to their commitment. Internet users, above all our champions, did not just brandish a white card. They gave meaning to their gesture. They told a story. They sent a message. The confinement led them to think about what they wanted to express by holding up a white card, what they dreamed about the future and posting their photos on social networks.

The battle against COVID-19 has not been won, but the debate about the world afterwards is already open What will it be? Will sport have the same place there? Will values be turned upside down? Will behaviour be transformed? It is still too early to even dare to begin an answer. But one thing is certain: we will be there, with Peace and Sport, to remind world leaders and decision-makers that sport is much more than sport. We will be there, when public policies resume, to tirelessly repeat that sport is part of the social instruments that every individual must be able to access during reconstruction. The results of the #WhiteCard campaign bring a message of unity and hope. We will not forget it.”

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