Why should Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, be interested in sport? Surely he has for too much on his hands with wars, international emergencies and the growing crisis in the world environment to be bothered with it?
Yet he said at the Winter Olympics two years ago: 'Sport can play a role in improving the lives of individuals - not only individuals, I might add, but whole communities. I am convinced that the time is right to build on that understanding, to encourage governments, development agencies and communities to think how sport can be included more systematically in the plans to help children, particularly those living in the midst of poverty, disease and conflict.'
And he set up the Sport for Development and Peace Responsibility Centre, and appointed a special advisor, Adolf Ogi, to encourage the use of sport in work with refugees, child soldiers, delinquent youths and communities in conflict.
On a practical level, it improves health, making the body more resilient against disease. It also provides something to do in places where there is little else, helping to reduce drug use, crime and violence.
Playing sport is a 'school for life' - teaching such qualities as leadership, fair play and confidence, often to people who cannot get other forms of education. Over time it is a powerful tool in development.
The United Nations also hopes that its 'neutral playing field' can provide a site for peace and conflict resolution. Sport brings people together on a common ground. Peace keepers hope that by forging relationships and relating to each other when they are having fun, conflicting groups will start to resolve differences and to abandon prejudices.
The United Nations is liaising with programmes working to integrate refugees and resident groups in Thailand, to encourage Roma children in Romania to attend school, to give an outlet for energy and frustration to young people in detention centres in Brazil, and to improve the strength and skills of disabled people in Kenya so that they can work - to mention just a few.
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Tunza 1 - Bernard Lama Tunza 2 - Lance Armstrong Tunza 3 - Haile Gebreselassie Athens Environmental Foundation Olympic Games 2004 Al Jadriya College PDF Version