Thomas Giles

Despite my initial scepticism, being at Peace and Sport here this week made me realise the vital work that such organisations do to help others.

I have always wondered about the true impact of sport on humanitarian crises.

Can something which is relatively meaningless in life really have the impact required to solve desperate and dire situations?

With this in mind, I went to Peace and Sport with rather a lot of scepticism as, from what I have seen from past initiatives, there seems to be a lot of money raised, but no real long-term legacy.

A classic example of this is major sporting events.

Do they really have the desired effect and increase the physical health of a host nation?

I am not so sure.

Peace and Sport, however, is clearly an organisation which is doing things the right way with several innovative ideas, which can really help the world change for the better.

One of these ideas that has really caught my imagination over the last few days is "Sport Simple".

This involves using locally-sourced material to build adapted sports equipment, meaning that the sport is truly sustainable and accessible in almost every country.

One image, in particular, has stuck with me.

It came from a promotional video for the Sports Simple campaign in which children were taking part in a fencing activity using cardboard equipment.

Usually, when you think of fencing, you think of highly expensive equipment such as helmets, armour and swords and a sport that is inaccessible to the majority of the world’s population.

The fact that these children could participate in a sport that is generally seen as inaccessible really resonated with me because all of this was achieved by using materials we take for granted in our daily lives.

Before Peace and Sport, I had thought that football was the only sport that could be well adapted and accessible to all, however, if you are willing to think outside the box and make adaptations, then every sport can become accessible.

Another huge part of Peace and Sport’s work, and often highlighted as their greatest strength, is their Champions for Peace project.

The Champions for Peace are athletes who work with Peace and Sport to help solve problems in their homeland by using their platform and the power of sport.

There are, of course, the world-famous athletes, such as Ivorian footballer Didier Drogba, who are able to inspire people to make changes to their lives.

There are also plenty of other Champions for Peace who most people will never have heard of that do extraordinary work.

insidethegames' Thomas Giles with Honey Theljiah, former captain of the Palestinian women’s national football team, at the 10th anniversary edition of Peace and Sport International Forum ©ITG
insidethegames' Thomas Giles with Honey Theljiah, former captain of the Palestinian women’s national football team, at the 10th anniversary edition of Peace and Sport International Forum ©ITG

One of those is Honey Theljiah, the former captain of the Palestinian women’s national football team, who is using her position as a role model to inspire change in her region, which is ravaged by violence.

Along with the Champions for Peace, the Peace and Sport forum was attended by Prince Albert II of Monaco and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus.

To have the support of two such well-established figures is obviously a major coup for the organisation and will undoubtedly help them spread their message to an even larger audience.

Whilst there were several workshops and discussions throughout the three-day event, which will have undoubtedly proved useful to many delegates, there was one particular demonstration that took place which caught my eye.

This demonstration was not between diplomats or delegates, who can have a direct impact on change, but instead by a group of athletes.

Joël Bouzou, the President of Peace and Sport, often talks about how his organisation can use its neutral position from its base in Monaco to act as a bridge between two opposing sides.

Such phrases are often just empty words, however, we saw them come to life yesterday when Russian and Ukrainian kickboxers took to the ring.

This sporting event was a symbol of diplomacy and demonstrated that, despite their countries’ political differences, they can still come together and take part in a sporting competition, forgetting about the politics that disturb their lives.

When I put this to them afterwards, the athletes were clearly proud of their achievements at Peace and Sport and emphasised how politics is politics and they are focussed on sport.

It was refreshing to see Ukrainian and Russian athletes standing side-by-side and laughing and joking with one another.

Peace and Sport's Champions of Peace are a huge part of the organisation's success ©ITG
Peace and Sport's Champions of Peace are a huge part of the organisation's success ©ITG

Overall, the work that Peace and Sport has done during its ten years of existence is nothing short of remarkable.

Peace and Sport does its job in an exemplary fashion and is a beacon to all other organisations, not just those involved with sport, who strive to help those less fortunate.

Bouzou is clearly humbled by his organisation’s achievements and is seemingly quite surprised at just how successful Peace and Sport has been.

Speaking exclusively to insidethegames after a media briefing yesterday, Bouzou said that when the idea of Peace and Sport first arose in his mind, he was unsure that there was a place for it in society.

He thought that sport was big enough to bring peace without the help of other organisations.

Despite this, he still pushed ahead with the idea and, thankfully, many people whose lives would be ruined without Peace and Sport’s help, have been beneficiaries of the organisation’s work.

Bouzou is nowhere near finished and, throughout the course of the event celebrating Peace and Sport’s 10th anniversary, was at pains to remind people that the organisation are looking at the next decade and beyond.