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Sport and peace

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 2013 issue 1
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue

In the latest issue of Sports Management, we examine the work of the peace and sport movement and look at examples of projects which are bringing unity to some of the most challenging places on earth (page 42).

As I sat down to write this Editor's Letter about these life-affirming, heart warming stories, the news flashed on the TV about the bombing of the Boston Marathon and the subject of sport and its ability to heal and build understanding between people took on an added poignancy.

With a few awful exceptions, sport manages to exist beyond the reach of such horrors, providing a sanctuary for people from all walks of life and an escape from a whole range of difficult circumstances, from war to economic pressures and ill health. Attacks on sport arouse deep-seated revulsion for this reason.

The unity through sport movement inspired the creation of the Peace and Sport organisation which was established in Monaco by Prince Albert II and former pentathlete Joel Bouzou. Peace and Sport have achieved some milestones, including – topically – bringing North and South Korea together to take part in the 1st Peace and Sport Table Tennis Cup in Doha. "Peace and Sport offers a unique opportunity to officials from politically divided countries to attend the same tournaments, to share time and to talk," says Bouzou.

Further afield, people are turning to sport to find their own sense of peace. For the people of Gaza, getting down to the beach and going surfing – one of the most unlikely things to associate with this troubled region of the world – offers freedom and space to those hemmed in and living in cramped conditions. There are no parks, forests or open spaces in Gaza, so people turn to the sea to escape and to enjoy some space, freedom and exercise.

The Gaza Surf Club is developing a community by teaching surfing and producing training videos in Arabic. It's also manufacturing and selling Islamic swimwear to enable girls to continue to enjoy the sport, providing a clubhouse and teaching surfers how to make and repair boards. "We've helped to

humanise the people of Gaza by offering a new view of their daily life," says Surf Club founder Matthew Olsen.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, as the difficulties rumble on, the Skateistan project is bringing fun, sport and exercise into the lives of hundreds of kids by teaching them to skateboard.

The Afghan National Olympic Committee donated land for a skateboarding centre, helped by funding from the Canadian, Danish, Norwegian and German governments and the project has been so successful that Skateistan is opening a second centre in Kabul.

When dark times come and we're faced with the kind of evil we saw in Boston, perhaps we can take a little heart that sport has the power to bring hope in the most challenging places.

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