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  • The 21st Century Belongs to Adapted Sport -- Op Ed


    Peace and Sport president Joël Bouzou (Getty Images)
    Since its origins in Ancient Greece, modern sport, as we know it today, has inherited a rich and vast history. A history filled with pivotal moments and personalities shaping its evolution to what it has become; a global phenomenon steered by structured governance.

    Pioneers like De Coubertin, were the first to understand the power of formalizing sports to develop individuals and strengthen ties between nations. We are currently witnessing another milestone shaping the world of sport with discussions around the IOC’s Agenda 2020. Through examples such as Ping Pong Diplomacy and mega-event boycotts, it has become clear that sport is now a key issue in our contemporary society. The challenge for this new century goes beyond evolution: we know we will continue to see innovation in science and technology, and that business and sponsorship will also progress, but the big question is and will remain one of ethics, that is, sustainability and legacy.

    What legacy do we leave and how can we do this while upholding democratic, ethical and human standards? How do we ensure that no-one is left behind and that we move away from a dynamic that imposes a way of life on the other, instead of enriching our experiences by learning from each other, exchanging with each other and ultimately, evolving through adaptation?

    With legacy and influence comes responsibility. The sports movement has contributed to globalization and created an increasing need for people to be equipped in dealing with cultural differences, diversity and plurality. There will, in the coming years, be a collective need for dialogue. The world of sport knows this and has something to offer; its own language. The time has come to make this language more inclusive, more accessible and open to diversity. In order to fulfil its social responsibility on a global scale, sport needs to increasingly adapt to a wide range of cultural and social environments and become truly universal, in full respect of its human values.

    The time has come for us to move beyond structured sport and to embrace adapted sport.

    As President and Founder of Peace and Sport, I have experienced first-hand the creativity and energy of our field programs. I have learnt from many people I have met along the way, people who use sport as a tool for education and peace in a wide range of settings. Nonetheless, our experience collaborating directly with local actors has shown us that many of them face numerous challenges, not in using sport as a tool but in implementing certain sports due to a lack of equipment and infrastructure and also because of the complexity of the rules of sport. For this reason, I decided to invest in bringing together our knowledge and experience over the past years and evaluate how we could as a first step, better support the democratization of sport on the global stage.

    The path has been long and many challenges still lie ahead, but we have found many partners along the way. Through an innovative and structured approach alongside international sports federations and local stakeholders, Peace and Sport has been able to observe, set up and test a range of sporting practices in the field, building on this new knowledge in order to foster social development. And with this goal in mind, we decided to present the expertise we had gained in the form of a manual, so as to benefit the greatest possible number of people.

    Peace and Sport has created an Adaptive Sport Manual (Getty Images)
    The goal of Adapted Sport goes beyond the development of sport for all, but to encourage the use of sport as a tool that can be adapted to and set up in a wide range of environments. The Adapted Sport Manual has been created in such a way as to be used and understood by all, and is intended for anyone wishing to educate and engage youth through sport. The manual brings together different sporting disciplines in the form of educational information sheets, allowing instructors, teachers and youth leaders to easily set up adapted sports and use them as a tool for dialogue and social integration.

    I have seen the manual work in practice, in all our field programs. It is a tool that directly benefits the local community – just last week we were working with a community centre in Nice to help them use sport as a tool for social integration – and earlier this year, following the Friendship Games, we were in DR Congo where we work with the association C.F.E.S.D.C (training, sports education and community development centres). This association has the sport competencies but lacks equipment, so instead of sending equipment and creating dependence, we taught them to build equipment from local resources and supported them in developing their own sports-based programs.

    The Adapted Sport Manual is a tool that can benefit everyone, whether someone with sporting competencies who wants to understand how they can adapt and transfer educational objectives via sport, or a youth worker looking to engage young people and create dialogue within a community by including sport in their program.

    When used as part of an approach that is in tune with realities of the local environment, sport has a proven capacity to foster harmony and integration.

    If sport is a unique language, let us make it understandable to the world. Adapted sport is about making sport adaptable to your reality and to the needs of your community. The 21st century belongs to a new era, one of adapted sports practices.

    Written by Joël Bouzou of Peace and Sport

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