At Olympics, Annan says power of sport must be harnessed to help children

At Olympics, Annan says power of sport must be harnessed to help children

Mr. Annan addressing group of Olympic athletes
Addressing a group of Olympic athletes in Salt Lake City, Utah, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has emphasized the critical role played by sport in improving the lives of young people everywhere.

Addressing a group of Olympic athletes in Salt Lake City, Utah, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has emphasized the critical role played by sport in improving the lives of young people everywhere.

Citing a “growing understanding” of the power of sport to build self-esteem, leadership skills, community spirit, and bridges across ethnic or communal divides, the Secretary-General expressed conviction 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 plans to help children, particularly those who live in the midst of poverty, disease or conflict.”

The Secretary-General’s remarks came on Saturday when he delivered the keynote address to the Olympic Aid Forum, an athlete-driven humanitarian organization which aims to use sport as a tool to further child development. He lauded the movement, saying its members were “champions [who] have chosen to use their position to help children who have never seen a ski slope or a basketball court.”

Mr. Annan urged greater attention to the role of sport in social mobilization for immunizing children, fighting drug abuse and tobacco use, preventing HIV/AIDS, and removing the stigma associated with the virus. “I hope your will urge policy-makers to consider the relatively simple and inexpensive tonic of sport as a means to alleviate the trauma and suffering of refugees, and others suffering from armed conflict; how it can contribute to peace-building, reconciliation and healing in post-conflict societies,” he said.

Mr. Annan noted that the UN Millennium Declaration, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the upcoming UN General Assembly special session on children were all concerned with these matters. “The Olympic movement and the United Nations share the same fundamental goals: to ensure that every child should have the best possible start in life; that every child should receive a good-quality basic education; and that every child should have the opportunities to develop his or her full potential and contribute to his or her society in meaningful ways.”

While in Salt Lake City, the Secretary-General and his wife, Nane, attended the opening of the Games as well as a number of sporting events, and visited the Olympic Village, where they met Olympic athletes from various countries. Mr. Annan also paid a courtesy call on the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints.