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  • Tuesday Talk - Peace and Sport Founder Joel Bouzou


    11/01/11

    (ATR) The founder of Peace and Sport gets ready to nudge his baby out of the nest. Next year the organization’s premiere event, the Peace and Sport International Forum, will be held outside Monaco for the first time since its start five years ago.
    Peace and Sport founder and president Joel Bouzou in Monte Carlo. (ATR)

    Bouzou, 56, an Olympian in modern pentathlon at four Games, went on to become secretary general of the sport’s international federation. More than six years ago he launched the Peace and Sport initiative as a way to help young people in regions of the world facing strife. The annual forum has become a springboard to develop projects and share ideas. It’s grown from just over 100 delegates in 2006 to 500 at last week’s forum.

    Bouzou talked to ATR Editor Ed Hula as the forum came to a close in Monaco.

    More from Joel Bouzou as he reflects on the just-ended fifth annual Peace and Sport International Forum held in Monaco...

    Around the Rings: How do you think the conference came together? Did it accomplish what you wanted?

    Joel Bouzou: I think it did because we had a great representation but also because people put a lot of patience in really delivering the message that they wanted to deliver from whatever regime they were coming from, whatever group of society they were coming from, and they stayed until the last minute.  

    We see also people that are coming every year because they want to follow the development of Peace and Sport, and it's great to see that.

    ATR: People had lots of questions. You had more questions than you had time to give answers and debate.

    JB: Yes, that's good. That means we still have work for the future.

    Sport will never bring all of the solutions to the planet, but we can do so much through sport. It's not only a spectacle, it's not only a marketing item, it's not only a medal or a victory or a defeat. It's a world society which has a capacity to bring anyone under the same rule under the same kind of flag, and at the end people are closer to each other and have the capacity to discuss other items in a more peaceful environment.

    ATR: Compare this to last year's meeting. Is it bigger? Better? Do you like the way the whole operation of the forum takes place?
    The Fairmont Hotel in Monte Carlo, scene of the Peace and Sport conference. (ATR)

    JB: Yes, it's bigger and better in the sense that it is much more specific as well. The concept of Peace and Sport and the different issues we address and the knowledge of people about these issues is more precise.

    ATR: How much bigger would you like it to become?

    JB: I don't know if I would like it to be bigger. What is important is the quality of people, and we need to make sure that everybody can express himself or herself, so I guess there will be a critical size in which it will be difficult to do more. I think the key is the representation of all sectors of society.

    ATR: You've had a good number of sports ministers, but you'd like to see more figures of that stature? Sports education?

    JB: Yes. Heads of state, sports ministers, education ministers, top NGOs, international organizations, and international federations are all very important. They are like in French literature, we say "who read prose without knowing prose" they do social cohesion without knowing they do social cohesion. They do gender equality sometimes without knowing they do gender equality. But if they know it, they can be more efficient. That's why this forum needs to take place, just to organize the gathering of all these people so that together we can all use sports for the best of society.
    Joel Bouzou gives the keynote address in Monaco. (ATR)

    ATR: You also have a number of well-known athletes here. Why is it important to bring them to this forum?

    JB: Many reasons: they are role models, and they have the capacity to drive the keys to the programs if they are well-used. The way we talk about champions, we are not only talking about those who are very much present to the media and are stars and so on; we have the champion who can talk to the kids. The regional champion from the region in Burundi has the capacity to drive the kids to the programs, and when they are in the programs they are not in the streets. They are not doing the mistakes. They are just doing sport. This is very important.

    ATR: Do you want big stars to help you out? Does it make a difference? Or is it important to have athletes maybe not so well-known but well-known in Burundi or well-known in some other country?

    JB: We need both. The big stars are important because they are so important in the neutral room in Peace and Sport. They are on the side of the top political leaders. It is important to them, especially those who are real role models, those who have this political conscience or this citizenship guideline. Those are very important.

    But the others are so important in the sense if they want to give back to society what has been given to them and if they are known by the local kids, they have the capacity to bring these kids to the programs. And that's very important. 

    ATR: What does it mean for this conference to go to Sochi next year?

    JB: Sochi is an Olympic city, so it makes sense also to do something around the Olympic Games. Sochi is in Russia, and Russia is a global player.
    Prince Albert of Monaco (second from left) passes the Peace and Sport flag to Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov. (ATR)

    New Russia is a very interesting society, so it makes sense to go to a country like that just as the IOC has given the Games to Sochi and to Russia and the IOC has given the Games to China in the past. These are countries that are very interesting for us, and also it makes sense to go to other continents progressively and export the forum, keeping the neutral gender of the forum but exporting the forum to other continents to spread our message to touch new publics and to tackle new issues.

    ATR: And as I understand it, it will be in Sochi next year and it will return to Monaco, then somewhere else the following year. So you will be taking bids on future conferences?

    JB: Yes, yes.

    ATR: And when will that happen?

    JB: It should happen in the next two or three months for 2014.

    ATR: With the conference being in Sochi next year, will it influence the program or the people who will be delegates at the meeting?

    JB: I think it could in terms of the program in the sense that there will be more delegations with more actors coming from the Caucasus region, which is a specific region of the world. But I think that also from what I hear, our traditional participants will follow the organization because they are very interested in the development not only of the organization but of the truce the organization is creating. This, I think, is very interesting.

    ATR: The forums are what Peace and Sport is known for, but what about on-the-ground activities? Building peace through Peace and Sport activities  how is that growing? How is that important to what you are doing?

    ATR's Ed Hula with Peace and Sport president Joel Bouzou and communications director Valerie Amant. (ATR)
    JB: First of all, the organization is not only delivering programs on the ground. We have the International Forum, we have the Peace and Sport awards, we have the Champions for Peace, we have several departments including the department of putting together books about non-expensive sport practices and equipment made from waste materials.

    Yes, we have programs on the ground. The resources of the organization do not allow us to go everywhere in the world, but what we are doing when we go on the ground is developmental projects. We extract the guidelines of success for these pilot programs and put them later at the disposal of the platform, so that they duplicate. That's what we do.

    With the ongoing process of growing the resources of the organization, I guess we will go more on the ground too. We have a special department for that. But this is not the primary goal of the organization. The primary goal of the organization is to extract from the practices what works and put it at the disposal of people so that we are not reinventing the wheel all the time, but we really promote what works in as many different environments as possible.

    Written and reported in Monte Carlo by Ed Hula

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