Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination! What’s more, the 2013 theme for this celebration is “Racism and Sport”… how perfect! As Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon said, “We must join forces to end racism, and sport can help reach this goal. On this International Day, let us recommit to ending racial discrimination and realizing our vision of justice, equality and freedom from fear for all.” This theme was chosen in order to highlight both the ongoing racism present in sports throughout the world and the power of sports to combat racism and racial discrimination.
Sports have played such an international role in the past century, from the Olympics to the World Cup, and now the UN is recognizing their importance in promoting peace and equality, two principles upon which sports and human rights are founded. After all, The Olympic Charter even states that the “goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Indeed, various programs instituted in countries throughout the world, especially poverty stricken countries embroiled in conflict, have been instrumental in promoting acceptance, diversity awareness, self discipline, teamwork, and conflict resolution in communities across the globe.
This day is being promoted by the UN in conjunction with the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It is being celebrated by an event in Geneva highlighting this international theme and featuring many influential sports figures from around the world to speak on the topic of racism and sports. The Secretary General delivered this message to the international community: “This year focuses on using the power of sport to end the blight of racism. It is an opportunity to highlight the sharp contrast between the positive values of sports and the despicable incidents of racism that scar even some professional competitions.” Ultimately, the fact that the UN and international nations have recognized the power of sports and the inherent racism that still underlies competition had made me so incredibly happy, and I only wish that I were able to travel to Geneva to celebrate alongside the world’s leaders.