This week governments will meet in London to consider how sport can contribute to advancing vital development goals. The 6th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting will review how all types of games can address social and economic challenges and promote global public health.
But why is sport so important for national development? According to Daniel Boxill, 22, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Barbados, it has the power to bridge divides and bring out the best of humanity, even in the worst of times.
As a medium for national development, sports are often overlooked. They can contribute to the creation of a sports tourism sector, the facilitation of a healthier society, improved physical education personal development, and be a uniting factor among communities facing conflict.
Countries such as Barbados and others within the Caribbean which depend heavily on tourism – which would have previously dominated tourism markets – are facing stiff competition from other countries. This, combined with the current economic crises, means they are suffering.
One of the ways to mitigate this would be to diversify their tourism products. Instead of simply “sun, sea and sand”, these countries need to look at non-traditional attractions and offerings to include sport, as well as arts, culture and entertainment, the natural environment and even health care.
Some of the ways a sports tourism sector can be developed are:
- Hosting of regional and international sporting tournaments.
- Developing facilities to international standards and offering international athletes and organisations training facilities, particular during winter months.
- Using high profile athletes for marketing and promotional purposes.
- Combining entertainment and arts and cultural initiatives with sports.
Developing sports facilities and a sports industry would also encourage young people to get more involved in sports. For many, sport is not viable due to a lack of adequate and appropriate facilities, training, equipment and financing. Having a sector interested in and dedicated to sports would help to change this.
Having more persons involved in sports would also lead to a healthier citizenry. With the high rates of non-communicable lifestyle diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, I think this should be particularly important to governments in Barbados and the Caribbean.
Being healthier, the chance of personal success and glory and the discipline associated with participating in sports would motivate individuals interested in the competitive aspects of sports.
One of the truly inspiring things about sport is its ability to transcend differences and boundaries and bring different persons or groups together to compete peacefully despite their strife. From the Olympics to basketball or football, for the purpose of peace and reconciliation between warring communities, sport has been used for many millennia to bridge divides and bring out the best of humanity even in the worst of times.
The stories of Olympians like John Stephen Akhwari, Carl Lewis, Mark Spitz and Jesse Owens transcend national, religious and even political boundaries to inspire millions and generations.
That is the power of sports. It is time we stop taking it for granted.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/