This topic is a great opportunity to present to you some of my ideas about the directions that I think sport should take in regards to their responsibility for solidarity programs in today’s community. First I will define solidarity; as someone that willingly is giving something (action) to someone and the receiver don't have, but will benefit by having it. Solidarity1 is support going beyond programs core business and can be given in many forms. Access to sport provides many benefits to children: it is essential in physical development; as it provides clear physiological benefits for children, improving disease resistance and muscular, respiratory and bone development, and cardio-vascular improvements. It teaches life skills such as conflict resolution, fair play and team building; and it has excellent psychosocial outcomes including increased confidence and self esteem, reducing anxiety, depression and tension. We all here recognizes that play benefits children as well as their entire community in the long-term. Children that have access to play and sport are more open to learning and have higher rates of retention within formal education systems3. Ultimately, they are able to develop as individuals who contribute to their community in a positive and meaningful way. By harnessing the opportunities that sport and play offer children, we should aim to provide hope to children around the world and through them to their communities. Play and sport is particularly important for children affected by conflict, disease and poverty and for those who have been marginalised for a variety of reasons, including gender, ability, ethnicity, religion or social background. Sport occupies both the mind and the body, giving children an opportunity to temporarily leave the difficulties of the past and present behind and focus on having fun and building skills for the future. It allows children to be children.
Sport is also a way to engage a community in awareness and education programs that affect their health and well being. Awareness campaigns that address issues such as vaccinations, health care, and HIV/AIDS have proved more effective when linked to physical activity through sports festivals and peer group initiatives.
We have seen an increase funding of elite sport – sport becoming a major business and in some elite sport, particularly athletes, are very well paid. Commercialization of sport events is to a concern of the sport audience, but if the funding goes to sport development, athletes and hosting of the games, then it is acceptable for the spectator. Some athletes are paid very well, but this is disproportional to most of elite athletes around the world that never receives much funding during their athletic carrier. A simplified version is that professional sports athletes have extensive payments and most Olympic athletes are much less paid.
Sport federations need to give back – that is why IOC is supporting Organizations like Olympic Aid as a humanitarian organization. As well, the IOC is funding, over the next 4 years, over 200 million US$ of their revenue through Olympic Solidarity. These funds will go to the National Olympic committees, and scholarship programs for athletes and coaches– helping them develop and prepare to the next Olympic Games. This is development of elite sport. Olympic Aid is a humanitarian program focusing on every child's right to play with inclusion of everybody, a grassroots involvement, delivering sport for the most disadvantage, children effected by war, by poverty, or by disease. Olympic Aid is focusing on creating sport programs in refugee camps around the world, policy development (sport as a tool for development) in the UN, UN agencies, and Governments. Olympic Aid program implementation is for the most disadvantage children, creating a sport community program that focuses on participation, inclusion, fun and enjoyment, physical activity, and youth empowerment.
Sport federation has two objectives – high number of participation as well as high performances in their elite sport. The combination is possible and I want to congratulate the International Hockey Federation with their initiative "Year of the Youth 2001", which clearly focuses on hockey envelopment as participation, fun and inclusion.
Some athletes are being paid several 100000 Euro a week – are they responsible for paying anything back to social development or humanitarian aid? I think so. Athletes will also need to follow "normal society rules" that say that we should give a little back. Greed that can be associated with these high salaries can turn spectators and "customers" away from the sport. Not saying it is wrong to pay our excellent athletes high salaries, but I do believe we have reached the saturation point. Athletes are asked more and more to give back into society. Marked research from US corporate world is identifying the future sales and marketing needs for large global companies. These companies are mostly paying for the elite sport. The research is pointing out that corporation will need to go towards more solidarity, help, support, and humanitarian aid promotion. The younger generation today is more concerned about the world's future, they have environmental concern, concerns about differences in wealth distribution, and concerns about new treats for armed conflicts. The study tells about youth interest in supporting and buying products that associates themselves with helping these global issues.
Elite sport was not included as their concern in this study. Sport, and especially the Olympics, needs to reach the youth as their audience. Sport business is not any different to other business. To increase growth and popularity within the youth generation and from corporations targeting youth, sport federations and athletes should show interest to participate in a humanitarian, social solidarity agenda beyond the classical commercial elite sport picture. With interest we are recognizing that governments are taking a more active role in the governance of sport. Decisions made by governments have huge impact on sport and management of sport. The governments' interest is focused on the economics of sport, labour rules, sales and the global sport market.
Interest has also been shown in drug use in sport. Little has been pointed out from the governments about the benefits of sport, with the exception of the classical health benefits. I think governments also should see sport as a tool for development for children, communities, and nations. I will take this opportunity to recognize the Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare and sport for their policy using sport as a tool for development as part of their holistic approach to solidarity and developmental aid to the developing countries. They include: democracy development, peace building, leadership development, community development, inclusion and participation, physiological, psychosocial and ethical. Sport has the power to unite people and foster dialogue. We need only look at the Olympic Games to understand the importance of sport to the engagement of national and individual pride and human solidarity as well as the promotion of peace, participation, and fair play. But we don't need to go to the Olympic Games to see this, in Kakuma Camp in Kenya, children from all different tribes and nations are playing together in the same team, to increase tolerance and understanding between the refugees.
First it was large opposition to this – from the adults – but the youth and children themselves wanted to participate and pushed through their inclusion in the football league.
Sport can also be regarded as a tool that enables children to reach and understand democracy.
Children learn the importance of building teams and relying on others to work together towards a common goal. Children in teams learn how to make decisions through processes; team building and sharing, consideration of the views of others, and making balanced decisions. While these may be simple lessons on a playground, children learn to apply the uncomplicated rules of play to the more complex field of adulthood.
It allows for a better understanding and acceptance of differences between people as shown when various ethnic groups participate in activities together. Understanding rules and developing respect for one's opponent are lessons learned through sport that may be applied to life. Sport provides new opportunities to learn about the rules of life and understand the concept of fair play.
The psychosocial benefits of sport include: development of self-esteem and confidence; builds trust, both among the peer group and of adults; teaches interpersonal communication skills and conflict resolution; encourages participation and understanding through teamwork; imparts leadership skills; outlet for frustration; alleviates boredom; and engages children in education and peace-building activities. We need to promote female participation in sport, as athletes and coaches. Their leadership encourages acceptance of the participation of women in all parts of society. Using sport as a means to build local leadership among young adults and children alike is another key factor in a nation policy. The children will be the leaders in their youth communities and will eventually develop into adult leaders.
Conflict resolution is another lesson learned from engaging in sport. Teamwork as well as competition teaches children the value of understanding their opponents and working together to arrive at a solution. Children will learn about compromise and collaboration to solve problems, focusing on positive outcomes. Sport can enable governments and organizations throughout the world in terms of domestic capacity building. These sport programs and policies must be sustainable and be accessible to governments to take the initiative to use of sport as a peace-building tool on their own accord. Sustainability can be achieved by encouraging local communities to take ownership of the program and be involved in its management from the outset. Management training and continuing education are integral to the development of sustainable programs. Children who take part in the programs will be encouraged to stay involved and continue the program as part of a peer leadership initiative. Athletes and Sport community should encourage States to become accountable to the ratified United Nations Convention on Children's Rights, and especially every child's right to play.