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Refugee team carries bittersweet message to the world

Farhad Peikar's picture
Also available in: Español

Thousands of spectators rippled to their feet while millions of others around the world joyfully watched live images on TV as the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) marched in Brazil’s Maracanã Stadium for the Opening Ceremony. Comprised of five South Sudanese runners, two Congolese judokas, two swimmers from Syria and a marathoner from Ethiopia, the six male and four female athletes were selected from a pool of 43 possible candidates.  Their inclusion was one of the top feel-good moments of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio because the 10-athlete-team not only carried the Olympic flag, but also a message of hope for millions of young people that have been driven from their homes.
 
However, while there is much to celebrate and many to praise for this unprecedented and historical initiative in the world of sports, in an ideal world such a team should not exist at all. The few joyful moments - compounded with our cheers - should not obscure the realities of unmatched human suffering in refugee camps worldwide. The very existence of such a team reminds us that the world has collectively failed over 65 million displaced people in helping them return home or find a new place to call their permanent home. These athletes represent a community that is running away from regional conflicts, civil wars, aggressions, genocides, famines, poverty, and diseases— some of which are so deep-rooted that finding viable solutions seems elusive.

Is sport inhumane?

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

"Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.” - George Orwell
 
Several years ago, while attending a global sports conference, I noticed that one of the most prominent members of the International Olympic Committee was carrying a small book in French. Knowing that this individual has an inclination toward intellectual escapades, I couldn’t resist asking for the title and author, he replied: Robert Redeker, 2008, “Le Sport Est – il inhumain?” As I had not previously heard of Redeker, I asked some follow-up questions to establish his viewpoint.
 
Robert Redeker is a French writer and philosophy teacher, known for his controversial views on many aspects of humanity with a soft but critical spot for sport as he wrote two additional books dedicated to sport: in 2002, “Le Sport contre les peuples,” and in 2012, “L'Emprise sportive.”
 
For those of us who will be going to Rio to witness the Olympic and Paralympic cauldron being lit amidst hundreds of thousands of spectators during the opening ceremonies, it is also perfect timing for a reflection about the current state of sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Movement. Currently, the deliberations are mostly lead by the media, athletes, coaches, and this time by the World Health Organization due to Zika's unknown long-term impacts.  
 
An ever-increasing number of leaders in sports as well as politics, education, and even religion are starting to pay closer attention to how sports can be a tool to benefit humanity. Critics such as Redeker have argued that it is an inhuman matrix, and that contemporary sport dehumanizes athletes while focusing only on citius, altius, fortius (faster, higher, stronger - speed, height, and strength as they are measurable quantities) at the expense of social, societal, behavioral and anthropological development.

Campaign Art: "We’re the Superhumans" celebrates Paralympics

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Back in 2012, in the lead-up to the Summer Paralympic Games in London, the UK’s Channel 4 created a social ad, “Meet the Superhumans”, to raise awareness and understanding of disability in sport but also how truly impressive, stereotype-crushing and fun the Paralympics can be.  The ad was incredibly popular and the channel's live broadcast of the opening ceremony on the night of August 29, 2012, was watched by 11.8 million TV viewers - its largest audience in ten years. The campaign also successfully helped the London 2012 Paralympics become the first Paralympic Games to sell out. 
 
Thus, creating a follow-up ad for the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro Brazil was a daunting task. Yet, the sequel, “We’re the Superhumans” is one of the greatest possible sequels. It is three minutes of powerful, fun, and compelling brilliance. It features a range of people with disabilities playing musical instruments, taking part in a range of sporting events, and doing everyday activities like eating cereal or filling up the gas tank of a car to the tune of Sammy Davis Jr.’s 'Yes I Can'.

There are one-legged dancers and blind musicians as well as a rock climber with one arm, a rally driver who steers cars with his feet and children with prosthetic limbs playing football and bouncing on a trampoline.

The film acknowledges the challenges that disabled people face on a daily basis, but it also shows that disabled people are capable of doing both extraordinary and banal tasks as well as any able-bodied person could.
 

We're The Superhumans | Rio Paralympics 2016 Trailer

Source: Channel 4 (UK Paralympic Broadcaster)

We, the people, for the global bicycle momentum

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

“Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live.” - Mark Twain
 
Have you ever wondered what happened to once commonplace items such as the abacus, the slide rule, the hourglass, or the quill; not to mention, VHS recorders, CD cassette players, and more recently, address and telephone books? They all met the same fate: they were replaced by modern technological innovations such as calculators, electronic watches, ballpoint pens, and computers. And what happened to the bicycle? It has been with us for over 200 years, and by some estimates, there are more than two billion bikes in use around the world and by 2050 this number could reach five billion. Over fifty percent of the human population can ride a bike. The bicycle is a veteran and mainstay of human mobility. Even competitive riders pay respect to the utility of bicycles outside grand tours. One of them, Ted King predicted: “Bicycles have the potential to save the world. There’s so much that a bicycle can do, from an environmental standpoint, from a health standpoint, and their social impact.” 
 
Amid the recent surge in global popularity of cycling - in sport, in leisure and in urban commuting - two presenters of Italian RAI2 radio believe that the Nobel Peace Prize should go to the bicycle. The presenters of the popular Caterpillar program describe bikes as an "instrument of peace". They say the bike "is the most democratic means of transport available to humanity". Proponents have also used the example of Italian cycling champion Gino Bartali, who during World War II ferried counterfeit documents by bike to save Jews, as an example of how the cycle has aided in "liberation and resistance". Additionally, 118 Italian Members of Parliament have also officially nominated the Afghan Cycling Federation women's team for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. They hail the bicycle as environmental, economic, and democratic.
 
In November 2015, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), in collaboration with the World Cycling Alliance (WCA), announced their commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to the UN’s Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, who called for voluntary commitments from civil society to tackle climate change. In “Cycling Delivers on the Global Goals” the direct impact of cycling can be demonstrated on at least 11 of the 17 Global Goals. Recent research presented in “A Global High Shift Cycling Scenario” by UC Davis firmly concludes: “The results show that a world with a dramatic increase in cycling could save society $24 trillion cumulatively between 2015 and 2050, and cut CO2 emissions from urban passenger transport by nearly 11% in 2050 compared to a ‘High Shift’ scenario without a strong cycling emphasis.”
 
The global community of cycling enthusiasts celebrates, even worships, the loyalty of the freedom machine to humanity by organizing events all over the world. However, well- intentioned or -organized, all these remain out of sync with very diversified agendas. After over two centuries of stellar service to humankind, we, the people, believe that the bicycle deserves an official annual World Bicycle Day sanctioned by the United Nations, and preceded by the International Year of Bicycle Awareness and Education of Cycling for All.

Sir Philip’s paralympic team yearns to play hoops with US President Obama

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

“It’s surprising the impact [the Paralympics] really has on you… It’s an untapped fuel for humanity that we really need to start using.” - Bode Miller, U.S. Olympic Skier

Sir Philip CravenDecember 3, 2015 - The International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Since December 3, 1992, the world annually celebrates The International Day of Persons with Disabilities to promote awareness, knowledge, and support for critical problems related to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society.

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed 1981 as the International Year of Disabled Persons and from the period 1983 to 1992 was named the UN’s Decade of Disabled Persons.

According to the 2011 World Report on Disability, published by the World Health Organization and the World Bank Group, more than a billion people globally have some sort of disability, and 80 percent of them live in developing countries. One third of all out-of-school children have disabilities, and fewer than 2 percent of children with disabilities in developing countries are in school. More than 800 million individuals with physical and/or cognitive impairments live in poverty, 3.5 million of whom are refugees. Between 50-70 percent of them are unemployed.

The 2015 theme of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was: Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of All Abilities. There were also three sub-themes: Making Cities Inclusive and Accessible for All; Improving Disability Data and Statistics; and Including Persons with Invisible Disabilities in Society and Development.

Quote of the week: Novak Djokovic

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Novak Djokovic“Everyone feels fear. I don’t trust a man who says he has no fear. But fear is like a passing cloud in the sky. After it passes, there is a clear blue sky... If you can channel it in the right way, fear will turn to strength.”

- Novak Djokovic, a Serbian professional tennis player who is currently ranked world No. 1 in men's singles tennis by the Association of Tennis Professionals.  He is generally considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time and a top 5 player in the Open Era (since 1968). Djokovic has won 10 Grand Slam singles titles and has held the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings for a total of 172 weeks.

Quote of the week: Sepp Blatter

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Sepp BlatterMy reputation is spoiled, because I was bitterly attacked, as responsible for everything. But it will not damage my legacy.

- Sepp Blatter, in reference to the corruption scandal that has damaged both the reputation of himself and FIFA and the enduring FIFA Goal development program, which has built more than 700 facilities for its member associations around the world and provides funding for “essential football projects” including pitches, technical centers, youth academies and IT. The development program was launched in 1998, the year that Blatter became President of FIFA. This work, he believes, will outlast the corruption charges.

Swiss prosecutors have accused Mr Blatter of criminal mismanagement or misappropriation over a TV rights deal and of a "disloyal payment" to European football chief Michel Platini. US authorities have indicted a total of 14 current and former FIFA officials and associates on charges of "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted" corruption following a major inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Global cyclists say NO to carbon - opt for CDM

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

bikes in Ghana“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.” - John F. Kennedy
 
From cradle to grave …

Currently, two billion bicycles are in use around the world. Children, students, professionals, laborers, civil servants and seniors are pedaling around their communities. They all experience the freedom and the natural opportunity for exercise that the bicycle easily provides.

That number could rise to as many as five billion bicycles by 2050, especially with the development of the electric bike that we are seeing worldwide. Over 50 percent of the human population knows how to ride a bike, and the annual production of bicycles is now over 100 million per year. In comparison, car production is currently at about 60 million units per year.

The bicycle is unique and deserves to be given a focus by the global community that it surprisingly has not yet received.

This is especially true of politicians who often underestimate the power of voters who take their freedom to pedal very seriously. City planners also need to be aware of how the bicycle contributes to decreased congestion and improved urban livability worldwide. There are, however, some wonderful exceptions such as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, Rome mayor, Ignazio Marino, Taipei mayor, Ko Wen-je, the 108th Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, Paris mayor, Anne Hildalgo, Rio de Janeiro mayor, Eduardo Paes, and former Washington DC mayor, Adrian Fenty who recognize the importance of incorporating bikes into city planning.

Many countries and cities already share best practices on how to become more cycling friendly. A process that the European Cyclists’ Federation and World Cycling Alliance is heavily engaged in, which recently lead to the EU ministers of Transport agreeing in a groundbreaking “declaration on cycling as a climate friendly transport mode” at a meeting in Luxembourg in early October 2015.

The former mayor of Munich, Christian Ude once said, "Do we want people in leading positions that are too scared to cross a city center on a bicycle? Of course not.  Let cyclists get at it!”  Cyclists – as citizens - tend to be a very organized and active group with bulk voting power that could be unleashed at any time to advocate for global policy change.

Football: A powerful platform to promote respect, equality, and inclusion!

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Also available in: العربية

Less than a year before the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and over one month after the final match of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Vancouver, BC, I would like to share and focus my reflections on the Women’s World Cup, mostly emphasizing the social psychology and sociological milieu around the match as it was extensively covered by all media.

 FIFA Women's World Cup 2015“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” Maya Angelou

In the past, I had the privilege of being present at multiple global sporting events around the world in many capacities, but I had never attended an event as a spectator until the final match between USA and Japan on Sunday, July 5 at BC Place Stadium. Women’s sport is very close to my heart as I had the privilege of managing my daughter’s junior and collegiate tennis career for almost ten years. Nevertheless, I was very excited to find myself in a new role as a part of the overwhelmingly American crowd of 53,341. On that day, a golden haze from wildfires blanketed the Province of British Columbia and Vancouver, BC, perhaps due to the 16-year US winning drought at the Women’s World Cup! However, during the 90 minutes of playing time and finishing strong with a winning score of 5-2, the US team extinguished the flames within the boundaries of the football pitch substituting golden smog with flashy golden confetti, a golden trophy, and gold medals around their necks at the award ceremony.
 
This summer has seen North America pleasantly packed with global sporting events. First we had the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, then the Pan-American and Parapan-American Games in Toronto. In between, there were the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, and coming in late September, the City of Richmond will be hosting the UCI Cycling Road Championships. One would wonder what these events have in common… The answer is relatively simple. In all of these events, female athletes play either the main role or a shared role as competitors. I am very cautious with the usage of the term “equal participation” as we hear some critics voicing their opinions. During and after the Women’s World Cup some complaints were raised about the artificial turf.  Others complained that the opposing teams were staying in the same hotel, and that offensive comments about player’s appearances had been made. There were also comments about paltry financial rewards for women athletes as compared to the Men’s World Cup.  But on the day of the final in the packed-to-the-brim BC Place, no one was thinking about these shortcomings.
 

Kicking green on the green for more than just the green

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Sport, and in particular football, can be used to promote health and development in many countries. However, large-scale sporting events like the football World Cup can have a detrimental effect on the environment and sustainable development.  Can FIFA and other governing bodies use their immense influence and budgets to establish environmentally friendly practices?

young kids play football in ZimbabweSport is a powerful symbol which eliminates barriers and provides opportunities for rapprochement. It does not have the power to stop tanks, but is capable of bringing people together and can be an excellent platform to open up dialogue, unite people and build trust. Sport is a bond to make a positive change in the world.” - Wilfried Lemke, UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace
 
An ever-increasing number of leaders in sports as well as politics, business, education and even religion are starting to pay closer attention to how sports can be a tool to benefit humanity. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon emphasized the commitment of the UN System to promote sport as a tool for development – including using it to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
 
The game of football is a sport embedded in the lives of many people, communities, and economies. Often called “The Beautiful Game,” it is accessible to all. An estimated 265 million male and female players in addition to five million referees and officials make a grand total of 270 million people - or four percent of the world's population - that are actively involved in the game of football. 
 
Football supports development in various ways as it generates income from sports-related sales and services that boost international trade. It also creates jobs, supports local economic development, enhances a country’s reputation, transcends national differences, improves health and social well-being, encourages teamwork, and most importantly it serves as a global communicator while speaking a world language for the sake of social good.
 


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