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Talkpoint: Why is sport so important for development?
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Talkpoint: Why is sport so important for development?

This week Commonwealth governments will meet in London to consider how sport can contribute to advancing vital development goals.

Ministers will discuss how sport can address social, economic and health challenges and review Commonwealth policy recommendations developed to strengthen sport-based interventions.

But why is sport so important for national development? The Commonwealth Youth Programme asked young people around the world for their view.

“The remarkable aspect of sport is not its ability to improve fitness and burn calories, but its power to draw people of any ethnicity, any religious or political belief, into a world where the rules are universally scripted and where the only worry is if your team will kick the winning goal. In those final moments of a sports match, it would seem that the only natural thing to feel with your neighbour is a shared mood of pensive excitement, and a mutual bond of identity and belonging: ‘we barrack for the same team’.” – Steph Carter, 21, from Australia. Read more:

“At the heart of development is people and this is the essence of sports. People in sports creating teams, forging ties and helping to shape society positively. Coming from a nation that places great emphasis on sports with the likes of world athletic champions Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and many others, sport is indeed a prevalent, dominant force in our nation, society and world.” – Tamara McKayle, 22, from Jamaica. Read more:

“Instead of subscribing to drugs, violence and restiveness, the energies of idle youths can be reserved for good use in sporting activities. Sports provide a healthy platform for youthful competition and encourage the participation of young people in nation building. If more conflict ravaged states would divert the energies of their youth into sports, while attempting to reach a compromise in inter-tribal conflict, I believe that their economies would grow better.” – Ayodeji Morakinyo, 24, from Nigeria. Read more:

“We live in a world where every minute of every day someone, somewhere, is playing sport. Yet there are many arguments that sport isn’t playing a pivotal role in the way countries are developed. This could mean only two things: either countries are not marketing sports properly or governments are not investing in their sports fraternities wisely.” – Ryan Brachoo, 22, from Trinidad & Tobago. Read more:

“Nigerians have a special affinity for soccer. In this country, when you mention sports, what the people understand is soccer. During a match, large screen cafes throw their doors open and throngs of strangers besiege place for views of Kanu and Okocha. Rich and poor, oppressors and the oppressed, would huddle in, sweating side by side amid the tension. In between shouts of GOAL! GOAL! GOAL, enemies might not remember how many times they embraced each other.” – Nnadozie Onyekuru, 23, from Nigeria. Read more:

“Being inherently social in nature, it brings all people – players, teams, coaches, volunteers and spectators – together in a way that is particularly conducive to harnessing the power and motivation to address national issues and foster national development. In doing so it also establishes a shared bond between peoples, helping to unify those from diverse backgrounds and break down the barriers of prejudice within nations.” – Alisha Lewis, 20, from New Zealand. Read more:

“The unity sport brings breaks down ideological barriers, whether they are religious or political. Sports tend to lead to people putting their personal ideals aside and unify a country, whereby individuals support nations as a whole rather than particular preference groups.” – Denise Juvane, 19, from Mozambique now living in England. Read more:

“Sports have been used to establish peace in many of Jamaica’s volatile and crime-riddled inner-city communities. Indeed many of Jamaica’s globally lauded sporting heroes are from economically deprived families and communities. It is an avenue for academic advancement and vertical social mobility.” – Craig Dixon, 23, from Jamaica. Read more:

“Remaining active and healthy is an essential component of development as it provides a way for students to learn about leadership and teamwork, which are fundamental to the longterm political and economic future of a country. Sports also provide a safe and controlled environment for youth and avoids criminal activities and unsustainable behaviour among teenagers.” – Grant Duthie, 18, from Australia. Read more:

“There is some magic in sports that we cannot deny. Something that reaches deep within our souls and make us proclaim before others that we live in the every moment. Sport, in its seriously unique context, is able to generate fresh inspiration within us. It gives us renewed and refreshed hopes and dreams that make any community one that is aspirant and exceptionally motivated. – Aristle Tay, 18, from Singapore. Read more:

“It’s inspiring to see your own team win, but it’s even more important to develop a country through promoting a healthy lifestyle for all its citizens. Compulsory PE class? I’m all for it! And not just for youths. Sport is for all ages.” – Eva Maria, 21, from New Zealand. Read more:

“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.” – Daniel Boxill,  22, from Barbados. Read more:

“Sports provide a fun and easy way to keep a nation healthy. One of the main challenges countries face is an unhealthy and unproductive workforce. An unhealthy population is expensive and can stunt growth as governments must spend more on healthcare instead of other social needs.” – Tamica Parchment, 24, from Jamaica. Read more:

“By reinforcing youth and sport networks we increase participation of young people in civic society through community camaraderie, and build structures for youth associations, government institutions and sports organisations.” – Fale Lesa, 22, from New Zealand. Read more:

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