Governments increasingly recognize sports as promoting health, peace, UN says

Governments increasingly recognize sports as promoting health, peace, UN says

Roger Federer
The spokesman for the United Nations International Year of Sport and Physical Education, tennis star Roger Federer, said today he is thinking about establishing a tennis tournament in Africa – maybe in the south – as part of his spokesman’s role.

As the second half of the year got under way, Mr. Federer, this year's United States Open and Wimbledon tennis champion who is ranked no.1 in the world, told a news conference in Geneva that since his mother is South African he knew that country well and his charitable activity, which had started slowly, now would be helped by the UN, which had given him the opportunity “to do good things for a good cause.”

Through his foundation in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, he has been providing food and education for street children there and estimated that a tennis fundraiser, which he pulled together earlier this year to help victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, might have raised about $50,000.

Recalling that the rapprochement between the US and China came through ping pong in 1971, the UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, former Swiss President Adolf Ogi, said governments are increasingly recognizing sport as a way to promote health, education, development and peace.

He said the International Year of Sport and Physical Education was in full swing at nearly its halfway point and it had become clear that sports could help countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a raft of proposals to raise the standard of living of the poor by 2015.

Building on the outcome document approved by the World Summit last week, a Sport and Development Plan of Action would be discussed in the General Assembly, he said.

The Summit document said: “We underline that sports can foster peace and development and can contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding, and we encourage discussions in the General Assembly for proposals leading to a Sport and Development Plan of Action.” In the Assembly’s agenda, the item falls under “Promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development.”

The Plan of Action would ensure that the Year would leave behind a lasting legacy, Mr. Ogi said.

Many countries have established national committees for the Year and many sports projects, run by the UN, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), governments, sports organizations have started, Mr. Ogi said. The Swiss Sports Development Project alone had run over 40 such projects, he said, while conferences on sport and peace in Russia and sports and women’s leadership had been held in the United States.