IOC · Olympic Movement

O-Minus 9: Sport for Peace

The world’s been a really scary place lately, no? We’ve got multiple countries torn apart by war, terrorist attacks pretty much every week, drug dealers and gangs wreaking havoc, and lone rogues who go off the deep end and shoot/stab/slice people in a singular attack.

It’s actually pretty good timing that the Olympics is almost here, which means hopefully the world will listen to the call for a temporary cease-everything-crazy. Put aside all of the problems that are going on with the organization and the city. The real draw here is sport, and one of the IOC campaigns reminds us that sport can be a driver for peace.

It’s true–take kids who are restless, who have no opportunity. Get them active, give them a structure, believe in them. They can succeed in life and shake the circle of violence and radicalism that has such a devastating effect on the world.

The IOC’s got a campaign going to support #OlympicPeace where you can pair a dove with a message and share it with your friends on social media. To me that’s an OK gimmick–it’s something to do and makes us think a little bit. But the better part of the campaign is the “Stories of Peace” section lower down on the page, where you can read a lot of stories of randomness that turned into something beautiful that strengthened relations between peoples and countries.

For example, due to an unlikely friendship between US and Chinese table tennis players in the 1970s, relations between the two countries’ governments thawed. Brazilian boxer Maria do Socorro de Melo has a tough life in Rio’s favelas, but finding Fight for Peace helped her find a better way to channel her energy and time.

These stories go on and on, but their work sometimes just scratches the tip of the iceberg of what’s needed to be done to make the world a safer place, particularly in areas prone to violence. During the Olympics (especially in the US, where we love our TV coverage with a side of inspirational stories) we’re going to hear more and more of these stories of people finding refuge in sport.

The organizations that reach out to underprivileged children (and adults) all over the world need help. They don’t have to be in the faraway favelas of Rio or in the wartorn areas of the Middle East–they’re also likely in your town or city–and they need people who are willing to help make a difference in the lives of others and fund to make it happen.

While money helps a lot, some organizations desperately need the man- and womanpower to make things happen and accomplish the mission. I personally see this as a roller derby official–there’s so much to do to support and improve this sport that makes a major difference in people’s lives. I’ve seen women who have had their lives completely transformed by this sport–they’ve built up shattered self-esteems; they’ve become empowered; they find a community.

If the power of the Olympics hits you during Rio 2016, consider getting involved in sports in your community–even if you think you’re not sporty. You may find the athlete within. You may find ways to help as a manager, coach, official/referee/judge, or organizer. But the first step to a better world starts with you.