Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of the International Day of University Sport
20 September 2019
The first Student World Championships were held on 20 September 1924. The contests, rivalries and turns of events that day are no longer recalled, nor are the names of the opponents.
Perhaps this is because the most important thing is not who won or lost. Performance and achievement are not the essence of university sport, even if today university sport is sometimes the antechamber of professional sport.
The most important thing is the values transmitted by the practice of sport, such as excelling oneself, showing respect for others, equity, teamwork, equality and discipline, which contribute to personal development and the cohesion of our societies.
Physical education and sport are essential for youth development and health, and contribute to building more resilient, inclusive societies and combating violence. For this reason, UNESCO is very committed to ensuring that quality physical education is accessible to as many people as possible.
Universities have an essential role to play in promoting quality physical education. As places of self-development and learning about the world and citizenship, they must also be places where an entire ecosystem of teachers, educators and students is dedicated to the development of sport for all. Regardless of social or health status, everyone should be able to practise sport, both recreationally and competitively.
The benefit of developing sport goes far beyond the university campus. That is why UNESCO, in cooperation with the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and its 170 national federations, has sought to promote sport among students by choosing 20 September to celebrate this International Day.
For the past four years, this Day, which also symbolically marks the beginning of the academic year, has been an opportunity for all universities to organize at least one sporting activity in collaboration with local partners.
Once again, there will be winners and losers; some records will be beaten and others will remain unattainable. This year, however, as in 1924, the most important thing lies elsewhere, in the promise of a more just and inclusive society.
I wish you all an excellent International Day of University Sport.