The IOC and the UN both have a long-standing commitment to using sport as a tool for social change, and have worked together on a wide range of projects, including the organisation of a joint biennial International Forum on Sport for Peace and Development. Since 2009, the IOC has also held UN observer status. Alongside the world’s current number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic, IOC President Jacques Rogge was in New York today to address the General Assembly after the important decision had been taken.
He said: “The true worth of sport is determined not by words on paper, but by how sport is practised. Stripped of its values, sport is combat by another name. Sport with values is a gateway to cultural understanding, education, health and economic and social development. We have seen the true worth of sport and physical activity many times. It helps young people learn the value of self-discipline and goal-setting. It builds self-confidence. It defies gender stereotypes. It provides an alternative to conflict and delinquency. It can bring hope and a sense of purpose to refugees, impoverished communities and other people in need. It helps keep young people in school, it brings health.”
Rogge thanked the member states, the General Assembly’s President, Vuk Jeremić, and Wilfried Lemke, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, for their support of this initiative. The IOC President also expressed his gratitude for the commitment of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is a strong advocate for sport and has pushed the UN’s close ties with the IOC and the world of sport to another level.
The Serbian top tennis player, Novak Djokovic, joined in the IOC President’s applause for the initiative and described how sport became an integral part of his life at a young age. He took a racquet in his hands for the first time when he was four years old and quickly became a big fan of Pete Sampras. On the proclamation of International Day he said: “Sport has unique convening power” and added “when an athlete speaks out, she or he reaches a large audience and this is a large responsibility”. He expanded on how sport offers many opportunities, especially for disadvantaged children. Djokovic is a UNICEF ambassador and has his own foundation, which aims to create a lasting change in the lives of children in need in Serbia.
The annual International Day of Sport for Development and Peace will also be a fitting complement to the celebration of Olympic Day, which commemorates the founding of the modern Olympic Movement each year on 23 June. Millions of people in countries around the world participate in a wide variety of Olympic Day activities, from 10-kilometre runs, to group exercise sessions, tricycle races and educational and cultural activities.