Understanding sport in national development

The general elections are over and the business of sport continues. Governments come and go but sport goes on forever. The challenge remains for those involved in sport to understand and appreciate that its has a critical role to play in national development.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines successive governments have merely paid lip service to sport and have consistently failed to locate it in its proper developmental context.
The international Olympic Movement has been at the forefront in establishing sport at the service to humanity. The concept of Olympism, propagated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) through the Olympic Movement across the spectrum of National Olympic Committees (NOC) is intended to facilitate global appreciation for the positive values inherent in sport and which can lead to better individuals and by extension a better world.
The reality is that while governments her seem to boast of doing so much for the youths of the nation they have in fact failed these very youths by their lack of genuine commitment to sport and its manifold benefits.
The Olympic Charter notes:
Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.
The Charter also states in its Fundamental Principles, 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.
The global sport movement argues that sport is one of the fundamental rights of every individual member of society and insists that there should be no discrimination in sport. Thus the deliberate attempts by some governments to infiltrate and/or control sporting organisations to achieve their own prejudiced objectives have always been vehemently rejected by the international community. This is the reason why the Olympic Charter declares. The organisation, administration and management of sport must be controlled by independent sports organisations.
Sport and Development
‘Sport & Development’ refers to the use of sport as a tool for development and peace.
The foregoing quotation clearly identifies a role for sport in the process of national development rather than as some frivolous undertaking.
Whereas in the past agencies involved in development work across the globe were hesitant, largely because of their own ignorance of the value of sport, failed to respond positively to the advocacy of the leaders of sport for inclusion in their work, the situation has changed significantly in today’s world.
Admittedly, in several small poor countries as those spread across the Caribbean Sea, political leaders by and large do not yet understand the power of sport, the global response in undergoing rapid change and sooner rather than later we would have little choice but to catch up.
In today’s world, Actors in sport, academia, private sector, non-profit and non-governmental organisations, government agencies, UN agencies and international organisations, the media, the general public as well as young people are increasingly interested in the potential of sport as a tool to reach personal, community, national and international development objectives. They are also interested in how sport can be used as a tool for addressing some of the challenges that arise from humanitarian crises and in conflict and post-conflict settings.
The former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Anan, understood the critical role of sport in global development, beyond the narrow confines of individual countries. He appointed Wilfried Lemke, as Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace. This decision has had overwhelming impact on the global sport movement where governments take seriously the development of their respective societies.
Lemke notes, Sport has a crucial role to play in the efforts of the United Nations to improve the lives of people around the world. Sport builds bridges between individuals and across communities, providing a fertile ground for sowing the seeds of development and peace.
Consistent with the initiatives undertaken by his predecessor, current Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, states, Sport is increasingly recognized as an important tool in helping the United Nations achieve its objectives, in particular the Millennium Development Goals. By including sport in development and peace programmes in a more systematic way, the United Nations can make full use of this cost-efficient tool to help us create a better world.
The global emphasis on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) has meant a more significant turning to sport to assist their achievement. We are told The United Nations (UN) has been using sport as a tool in development cooperation and humanitarian aid efforts for decades. In recent years, UN programmes, funds and specialized agencies have increasingly recognized and harnessed the power of sport to achieve their objectives, particularly the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000.
As a major force for peace in the world since 1993 the United Nations has joined the IOC in proclaiming an Olympic Truce. It has been noted that, Through its resolution 48/11 of 25 October 1993, the General Assembly urged Member States to observe the Olympic Truce from the seventh day before the opening to the seventh day following the closing of each Olympic Games. This appeal was renewed in the Millennium Declaration.
The sheer power of sport as a vehicle for the advancement of peoples continues to gain global recognition.
UNESCO has an Inter-Governmental Committee on Education and Sport that has been seeking to build support for initiatives in sport around the world.
For all the years that we here in St Vincent and the Grenadines have been represented at the United Nations never have we even brought this to the attention of our Vincentian people, especially our youth. This gives the lie to our continued profession of commitment to our youth and to the development of sport.
Our most recent addresses to the United Nations General Assembly have not included the role of sport in the broader development process because we do not understand its role and have never been able to locate it in our own development thrust.
Unfortunately we continue to see the provision of a patch of grass here or a hard court there as sport development. This wastage is as deleterious to the advancement of sport as a vehicle for genuine national development in St Vincent and the Grenadines is matched only by the continued appointment of square pegs in round holes in governmental agencies for sport.
Values sport and society
Over the past three (3) years the IOC has recognised the positive values inherent in sport. There is now a programme called Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP) that falls under the portfolio of the Culture and Olympic Education Commission of the IOC, which seeks to encourage the promotion of the positive values through the existing curriculum in schools, colleges and universities around the world.
The OVEP has taken five fundamental values from the Olympic Principles and developed an educational tool kit for use around the world. The values are: Joy of Effort, Fair Play, Respect for Others, Pursuit of Excellence and Balance between Body, Mind and Will.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines the NOC has been diligently pursuing the inculcation of a culture of sport but has had to contend with numerous challenges, not the least of which is an education system that does not seem eager to recognised values-based education as integral to its mandate.
Society needs people who have been imbued with positive values that allow for its transformation into a harmonious, peaceful unit. This is a major challenge that should occupy the attention of all of us. Unfortunately this is not the case.
We are far from acknowledging that we have a problem with our families and our education system. The nonsensical emphasis on a so-called ‘education revolution’ has not in any way translated into the creation of a healthier and more unified Vincentian society. We are today as divided as we have ever been.
There is a sort of decadence overtaking Vincentian much like a creeping paralysis.
Sport can provide the antidote if we allow ourselves to come to an understanding of its power.
It is unfortunate that despite the gradual increase in graduated in Physical Education and Sport in our schools there has been little evidence of a concomitant increase in the attention being placed on sport. Instead there is a smug arrogance and comfortable mediocrity that is ever-more pervasive in the education system that does not allow our teachers to work on sport beyond the school hours unless under directive and even less attention to seeing and using sport for development of the children in their care.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is a society that has unfortunately lost the art of caring. This is tour eternal detriment and successive generations will be the poorer for it.
Small wonder then that we continue to drop in our international rankings in sport; that we are less successful at the regional and international levels in sport; that we have no idea what constitutes sports tourism or how to achieve its multitudinous benefits; and, that we as a people are eagerly accepting obesity as an option instead of wellness.
WE can change all of this if we are prepared to review our approach to sport and desist from transforming it into a political plaything.
The old saying rings just as true today as it has ever been: Where there is a will, there is always a way.