Ensuring that sport is a part of educational curricula in the earliest years will teach important values and help build civil society, according to panelists discussing “How Can Sport Be an Agent of Change for Society,” at the Doha Goals Forum.
Since a vigorous civil society requires leaders and citizens to abide by laws and rules, countries can strengthen civil society by instilling such values in students, panelists agreed. “If children regularly play sport, they will understand the importance of rules. They learn it’s no fun playing if someone is cheating. Sport teaches principles and fairness,” said Johann Koss, CEO of Right to Play.
Sport also is good for education more broadly since school systems that have added sport into their curricula have seen attendance jump from 50% to 96% and seen academic achievement improve by an average of 25%, Koss said.
Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympics Committee, said values such as fairness and perseverance can’t be taught formally. “You don’t pick up these values from a blackboard in a classroom. You pick them up subconsciously doing sport over many years.”
Given the important lessons that sport teaches and the valuable role it plays as part of the broader educational experience, it is vital that sport be inclusive, said Wilfried Lemke, UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace. He said steps should be taken “to convince ministers in developing countries of how partnership with federations, the IOC, governments and others," can be used to bring sport to all sectors of society.
Craven added that sport also is a powerful tool for changing perceptions and dispelling myths “that legislation can’t do alone,” adding that the Paralympics “provides moments for major education.”
H.E. Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor bin Jassim Al-Thani, President of the Qatar Statistics Authority, said that technologies being developed for the World Cup in Doha will positively impact wider Qatari society. “The impact that the cooling systems will have, in reducing temperatures [in the stadiums] will be used more broadly to encourage more activity among our people by making sports part of their year-round activities, rather than something done only during a particular period” of the year.
In a similar way, the legacy of the London Olympics will be huge, according to Nawal El Moutawakel, Vice President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). “The London games have transformed the city. In areas in East London that were slum areas, today there are hectares of the Olympic Park, with a stadium, and a village that hosted 10,800 athletes. This is the legacy.”
She also said that the London Olympics was the first time “women were celebrated 100%,” with the first Saudi, Qatari and Brunei female athletes. She also said that on an administrative level, women are playing a larger role, noting that for the first time, there are three women on the IOC Executive Committee.