April 23, 2013
Opportunity is Crucial, Says IOC Sport for All Chair
(ATR) Sam Ramsamy tells Around the Rings “everyone ought
to be given an opportunity” for sport.
That’s the gist of the South African’s speech to the
15th IOC World Conference on Sport for All later this week in
In the meantime, Ramsamy discusses some of the issues now facing the IOC Sport for All Commission with ATR Associate Editor Matthew Grayson.
Around the Rings: How would you assess progress made since the last IOC World Conference on Sport for All two years ago in Beijing?
Sam Ramsamy: From my communication with very many countries, Sport for All is now getting more and more widespread, and it’s being used for a series of purposes. In some countries, the education and health ministers are getting involved.
As you know, in the United States – although we didn’t have any representatives [in Beijing], I’m hoping someone turns up to Lima – [First Lady Michelle] Obama is deeply involved now in very many aspects of sports activities. She’s got this “Let’s Move” program. It seems quite inspirational what Mrs. Obama is doing.
And then even in the African countries, because we realize that by spreading sports and a very wide range of activities from schoolchildren onwards, they identify kids with aptitude, and hopefully that’s going to lead them one day into the Olympic arena.
ATR: How do you expect the conference in Peru to differ from last time around?
SR: Previously, the conference was largely academic. What I did is I combined both academia and sports activities because I believe, in the end, it’s nice to get research done, but it’s not an event only for researchers and university professors, so I’ve turned it around, and we had some success as far as that was concerned overall in Beijing. That was the first time I introduced it, and now we’ve got three major themes: social benefits, sports facilities and public spaces, and partnership.
We’ve got some experts coming to the conference in Peru, and I’m hoping that there’s going to be further inspiration. Already, at the moment, we’ve got a fair number of NOCs turning up, and they’re very interested – at the last count, 10 NOCs from Africa, 10 from the Americas, nine from Asia, 12 from Europe and three from Oceania. I’m certain there will be more.
At the moment, as far as overseas participants are concerned, outside of Peru, we’ve got 300 participants. We haven’t counted the Peruvians yet. Of course, we leave that until the very last moment.
ATR: Why the choice of theme? Why social benefits, sports facilities and public spaces, and partnership?
SR: This is what we identified when discussing matters in Beijing. These three were the issues we highlighted because we needed to go beyond academics. As far as social benefits, we needed to look at health, we needed to look at societal/educational/economic/environment and sports benefits generally, and then of course we realized that utilization of sports facilities and public spaces are important.
I’m very impressed with what’s happening in Peru where people are utilizing the cities. For instance, in Peru, once a month, everybody converges into the city and all the traffic is blocked and there’s activities there. And that happens in Medellin, Colombia and other areas as well.
Of course, in Africa we’re utilizing it too. As you know in Kenya, kids walk to schools. And South Africa, too, in many of the rural areas, they all walk to school. We’re utilizing those types of activities. This is what I’m encouraging, and this is what I will talk about in Lima is the Olympic Day activities.
You probably know now the IOC has converted what they initially called the Olympic Run into Olympic Day whereby all types of activities take place now. In South Africa, most of the sports activities take place. We have roller skating, wrestling, and even mind sports like bridge and chess. That’s very encouraging what’s happening in other parts of the world, and we’re going to encourage this through Olympic Day, not the old traditional Olympic Run. We’re going to talk quite a lot about that in Lima.
ATR: What do you hope to come out of Lima, and then how do you ensure that gets acted upon going forward?
SR: Firstly, as I said, we’ve turned this around from being purely academic, and the first such conference where we turned it around was Beijing, so this is only the second such conference. Now, what we need to do is consolidate the particular activities, the youth, the research, and translating the research into action. That, I think, that’s what sport is all about. Sport is about action, and we can’t leave researchers to do all types of activities. Everything must be translated into action, and that I think is going to be the main issue.
ATR: Sport for All seems to be one of the major legacy initiatives of the London Olympics. How is that playing out? Is the U.K. delivering in terms of getting kids off of the couch and onto the playing field?
SR: Yes, I am in fact very very impressed. Prime Minister David Cameron announced last month he put in $225 million for school sport. They want a legacy out of the Games because the Olympics mustn’t be the pinnacle of everything that happened – that it must go to kids – and what better way of starting with that than school sports.
ATR: Is there anything else you wanted to share with me?
SR: I was in Peru earlier this year, and I was very impressed with the amount of activity they were doing. Like South Africa, they don’t have a very big middle class. It’s like most South American countries where there’s quite a lot of people with not much earning capacity, but the amount of work they are doing is encouraging. They’ve got basketball, their own type of tennis, swimming activities, etc. I was very impressed with that. That is something which I am hoping people from other parts of the world will come and realize they need public spaces more than high-class facilities.
Opportunities – that’s what I’m doing in South Africa. I say everyone ought to be given an opportunity. So that’s what I’m encouraging – to get basic opportunities going for everybody. I’m going to talk about that in my speech.
Interview by Matthew Grayson
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Lima Stages 15th IOC World Conference on Sport for All