Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace
6 April 2020
Today, 6 April 2020, the world of sport is going through an unprecedented experience on account of the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended our daily lives.
In many parts of the world, for more than 2.5 billion people, outdoor physical activities – from running to tennis, from football to cricket – have been discouraged or even forbidden. At the same time, many competitions have been cancelled or postponed, as has been the case for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, which had been set to take place in Tokyo.
In these unprecedented circumstances, sport nevertheless remains a valuable ally. We must keep physically active because exercise is essential to good health and to physical and mental well-being. In addition, our current situation obliges us to look at the values of sport differently; never before have the values of solidarity, inclusion, fairness, sharing and pushing one's limits been so absolutely necessary.
We must therefore support sports organizations which are threatened by this interruption to their usual operations. In the interim, we must also find other sports which we can practise at home. Educators have an essential role to play in suggesting appropriate activities so that the 1.5 billion learners who are currently unable to go to school can continue to be physically active and just have fun. They can do this with the help of online resources offered by UNESCO, such as Sport Values in Every Classroom: Teaching Respect, Equity and Inclusion to 8-12 Year-Old Students, a toolkit designed specifically to promote the values of sport through activities for children aged 8 to 12 years.
Beyond school, there is an increasing number of initiatives aimed at ensuring that sport does not disappear from the daily routine of all those who are confined to their homes. Thousands of people, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away from each other, are meeting remotely to do exercise together; online courses given by recognized professionals are streaming live on social networks; digital tools, such as mobile applications and video games, make it a pleasure to keep moving; and some sports which are by nature individual undertakings have suddenly become group activities through the bonds they create.
These are all welcome developments, especially for women and children, since schools and organizations are unable to provide access to sport for the time being. This period is thus showing us that necessity is indeed the mother of invention – and, to be sure, of reinvention and innovation.
Paradoxically, in these difficult times, sport is a catalyst for solidarity and hope. The father of modern Olympism, Pierre de Coubertin, used to say that every difficulty encountered should be treated as an opportunity for further progress. May the severe crisis we are experiencing today be a source of further progress: this is our hope for the post-COVID-19 world.