A whole new world sports order is in process driven by advancement in communication and the means of communication. Both have impacted the world in ways that leave most of us products of the ‘good old days’ bewildered. Television, the internet and the telephone have all contributed in bringing the world into our living rooms and have become so commonplace that we take them for granted and hardly stop to think of the quantum leap man has made from the days when Nigerians watched only one match of the English Premiership on television once a week (called Match of the day), covered by three television cameras and relayed on a delayed transmission to the present day when one cannot keep track of all the live matches each covered with a minimum of about 28 cameras!
These changes continue to impact the world in a lot of ways. Two weeks sojourn in the UK and my interaction with players across the global spectrum of the sports industry have left me with a fuller and fresher appreciation of the power of sports to impact the world and change it for good!
I have been at international conferences, seminars, workshops, trade fairs, meetings and competitions for many years but have not seen and experienced the sort of excitement around sport as I did these past two weeks. One of the greatest achievements of the 21st Century must be the global awakening to the power of sport as a tool not only for the promotion of sport itself but for its use as a as an instrument to drive social engagement and community development! Taking sport beyond the realm of sport is the biggest revolution in the history of sport in my reckoning!
Lewis Pugh swam for one kilometre in the sub-zero degrees waters of the North Pole and was numbed for four months after that to draw the attention of the world and that of his government to the effect of global warming and the rapidly shrinking polar ice caps. For Pugh’s effort British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has now committed the government to reducing his country’s carbon emission from 60% to 80% by 2050! In Venezuela, Project Alcatraz is a project that uses the game of rugby to reduce crime and transform violent leadership of youth offenders into virtuous leadership. The project has resulted in 65% reduction in crime, and close to 88% reduction in homicide in the area! Within Botswana in Africa is a project that aims to drive conservation and wildlife messages, using football to teach children an understanding and respect of their environment and the animals and plants that flourish there. The twinned Peace Sports schools project is one that uses basketball and football to pair 2000 Palestinian and Israeli children from neglected and peripheral communities in a region where so much strife has occurred through the millennia, in a series of joint activities in a ‘safe space’ between them. Through sports they freely engage with one another! There are many more such intriguing projects using sports as a tool to drive causes and major social development missions that are massively impacting the world that were presented at the Beyond Sport summit in the UK. For many of us participants it was affirmation of our collective vision to make effort to make little contributions to our environment, and assurance that we are not working alone, that we are being observed. It was fuel in our pits! We left the summit fired to extend the scope of our projects and expand our dreams.
Even as participants departed it was not without one of us kick-starting what I believe might become the ultimate use of sport. As Steve, winner of the most courageous use of sport award, proposed that during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, all world governments should be challenged by FIFA to call for a global truce for 90 minutes, when all wars and conflicts around the world would stop! Ingenuous! That was the original mission of the Olympic movement – to use sport as a peace weapon. The idea was to call for a global truce during the Games when all conflicts and wars would stop and the opportunity used to sustain peace!
At the summit Steve was calling on the world to remember the original objective of sport and use the power of its passionate followership to make man to halt all fighting! Will FIFA take on the challenge? It seems ambitious but if the changes that have happened to the world are anything to go by Steve’s idea may not be a pipe dream after all!
I am challenged to take it one step further. I shall join with others of like mind to challenge FIFA to get governments around the world to extend the period of this global truce from 90 minutes to the entire period of the World Cup!