The Peaceful Power of Sport
Sport is a universal language that crosses borders, cultures, and religions. The rules of the game, including teamwork, fairness, discipline, and respect for the opponent, are understood all over the world.
Although sport alone cannot stop or solve an acute conflict, it’s a fun and effective way to prevent conflicts, to build peace, as well as to relieve post-conflict stress. It’s a powerful tool to bridge gaps and strengthen social connections, to educate and promote ideals of peace, fraternity, solidarity, non-violence, tolerance and justice and contributes to a healthier happier world.
In 1978, UNESCO described sport and physical education as a “fundamental right for all” but the right to play and sport has too often been ignored or disrespected.
Sport’s value as an instrument for development and peace is not measured by resolutions, appointments and meetings, but by what happens in the field. That’s why The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) was initiated.
It is a platform that highlights the many initiatives that run every day in every corner of the world.
6 April: International Day of Sport for Development and Peace
Creating a historical link to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly declared 6 April as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace in 2013 as an annual celebration of the power of sport to drive social change, community development and to foster peace and understanding.
The IOC, in its capacity of Permanent Observer to the UN, has been supportive of this initiative, as it values its potential to recognize sports organizations’ role in and contribution to social change and human development. More specifically, it is an opportunity for the IOC to highlight how athletes and the Olympic Movement use sport to foster peace, reconciliation and development, and underline the power of the Olympic Games to promote tolerance and solidarity among the participants, fans and people all over the world.
“THE OLYMPIC GAMES SHOWED THE WORLD HOW TO COMPETE PEACEFULLY.
THEY SHOWED US THAT, DESPITE ALL OUR DIFFERENCES,
IT IS POSSIBLE FOR HUMANKIND TO LIVE TOGETHER IN PEACE, RESPECT, AND HARMONY.”
Olympism, a way of life
Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life, based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.
Contributing to building a peaceful and better world through sport is a Fundamental Principle of the Olympic Games.
The ancient Olympic Games date from 776 BC, honoring God Zeus.
According to the story, the dactyl Herakles and four of his brothers, raced at Olympia to entertain the newborn Zeus.
He crowned the victor with an olive tree wreath, which became a symbol of peace.
The other Gods that lived on Mount Olympus, also engaged in running, wrestling and jumping contests.
The modern Olympics Games started in Athens in Summer 1896, with 241 athletes from 14 countries.
Pierre de Coubertin, the IOC’s founder, was explicit in his desire to use the Olympic Games as a forum to promote harmony among individuals and nations. “Wars break out because nations misunderstand each other,” he wrote. “We shall have no peace until the prejudices which now separate the different races shall have been outlived. To attain this end, what better means than to bring the youth of all countries periodically together for amicable trials of muscular strength and agility.”
When he announced the forthcoming re-establishment of the Olympic Games in 1892, Pierre de Coubertin was applauded, but nobody at the time imagined the scale of the project that reviving the ancient Olympic Games, appointing a committee in charge of organizing them and creating an international movement would entail.
The International Olympic Committee was created on 23 June 1894 and the first Olympic Games of the modern era opened in Athens on 6 April 1896.It has now grown to a worldwide event, with ca. 10.500 competing sport professionals, representing 204 nations and 35 different sports.
The Olympic Games take place every four years. The Winter Games are smaller and follow two years after the Summer Games.
The symbolic fire was first lit in 1928 during the opening of the Olympic Summer Games in Amsterdam.
Since 1936 the torch is carried from Olympia to the Olympic host city, starting weeks before the opening ceremony.
His stunning victories and achievement of four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin have made Jesse Owens the best remembered of all Olympic athletes.
His outstanding performance during the Olympics not only discredited heinous claims of the dictator, Adolph Hitler, it also affirmed that individual excellence rather than race or national origin, distinguishes one man or woman from another.
“At the recent Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, we witnessed the impact of the Olympic spirit on the Korean peninsula. A powerful message of peace driven by sport and athletes was seen at the Opening Ceremony, where teams from the DPRK and the Republic of Korea, separated for decades by a military border, marched side by side; or when their women’s ice hockey players competed together as a unified team,” the International Olympic Committee (IOC) says.
The IOC cooperates extensively with partners, including NOCs and numerous United Nations agencies, as well as international governmental and non-governmental institutions, on activities and educational initiatives which use sport as a tool for development and social change, contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
HERE ARE SOME PEACEFUL RUNNING EVENTS:
16 June 2019: KIGALI INTERNATIONAL PEACE MARATHON, RWANDA
Rwanda is a small, land-locked country located in East Africa, bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The capital Kigali is built on eleven hills.
During the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 approximately a million Tutsi people were killed by members of the Hutu majority government over the course of 100 days.
The Kigali Marathon was initiated with the idea that sport could be a way of building peace.
The event takes place on a hilly road course with beautiful city views.
Race distances are a full marathon, half marathon and 7K run for peace.
The race will start and finish in the Amahoro National Stadium, near Remera, one of the hottest centers of Kigali.
The Amahoro National Stadium was temporarily a UN Protected Site during the Rwandan Genocide, hosting 12,000 mainly Tutsis refugees.
The Rwanda Athletics Federation uses the raised funds to sponsor widows, orphans, and those who were left behind in 1994.
In 2017 5800 people from 35 countries participated in the Peace Marathon, including 500 Kenyans and thousands of Rwandans. In the non-competitive Run for Peace, some mothers did not shy away but brought their babies with them and the people with disabilities were also present.
Race info: #KigaliPeaceMarathon
“The supreme secret or goal will be to transcend our own capacities. We will not try to defeat others.
We will try only to constantly transcend ourselves. We must try to develop universal goodwill.
When transcending ourselves, we will not fight with ourselves.”
SRI CHINMOY RACES
Sri Chinmoy founded the Marathon Team in 1977, and his vision, encouragement and intuition have been the guiding force behind its growth into the world’s largest organizer of ultradistance races.
His innate understanding of the limitless potential that lies within each one of us led him to conceive of events that to others seemed beyond the bounds of possibility.
During his lifetime, Sri Chinmoy was internationally recognized for his numerous initiatives that have united people from many cultures and walks of life to work for a more fulfilling world. He was always a strong advocate for the role of sports as a powerful instrument for promoting global harmony. As an athlete, philosopher, artist and poet, Sri Chinmoy dedicated his life to advancing the ideals of world peace and oneness.
Sri Chinmoy practiced sports not only for the joy of it, and to keep the body fit, but also because he saw sports as a natural vehicle for expressing his philosophy of self-transcendence. Inspired by his example, several of his students have attempted to stretch their own personal limits – setting new world records in various fields, running multi-day races, swimming the English channel and climbing some of the world’s highest mountains.
Sri Chinmoy passed away in October 2007 at the age of 76.
The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team puts on sporting events in over 20 countries around the world – mainly running, but also other disciplines such as lake swims and triathlons.
They organize races of all distances from 2 miles up, but they’re best known for their long-distance ultra running events, including the 3100 Mile Self-Transcendence Race – the world’s longest certified road race:
18 June-18 August 2018: Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, New York, USA
The 22nd annual edition of ‘The Mount Everest of ultramarathons.’
Athletes are able to test themselves in a format unlike any other ultra-marathon event. In order to meet their goal of 3100 miles in 52 days, they must log an average of 59.6 miles in an 18-hour daily format. The runners begin at 6 am and run for extended periods throughout the day, taking breaks as needed. If they want to, they can continue as late as 12 midnight when the course closes for the night.
The surface is concrete sidewalks around a playground, ball fields, and high school in a city neighborhood.
The physical and psychological demands are prodigious, if not overwhelming. Participation is limited to invited athletes who have a resume of multi-day running experience and elite endurance abilities.
The race serves as an inspiration for people in all walks of life to ‘go the extra mile’ or reach their own highest potential in whatever they do.
In 1987, Sri Chinmoy founded the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run.
It is a torch relay that travels throughout the length and breadth of the world promoting the simple message that there is infinitely more that unites us as human beings than divides us. A key feature of the Run is the idea that it is individuals who, through changes in their own lives, can make positive change in the world a reality. Since 2004, the Run has also been known as the World Harmony Run.
Relay teams in each participating country are made up of runners from all walks of life, who have dedicated their time and energy to bring the Run to communities around the globe. Coordinators in each country partner locally with schools, community groups, sporting organizations, city and state government departments to bring the run to the community as a service encouraging international friendship and understanding.
Every year, the Peace Run makes its way through the 5 main continents of America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australasia. Members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre assist with the planning of the run, but it is truly a grassroots project, with many people from local communities coming forward to help, inspired by the simplicity of the Run’s message.
More info: Sri Chinmoy Worldwide Race Events #3100MileSelfTranscendenceRace #SriChinmoy #PeaceRun
6 July 2019: ULTRAMARATHON VUKOVAR SREBRENICA
is a marathon race run by four runners in July 2012 and 2013, on a section from the city of Vukovar in Croatia to Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The race was held under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Croatia, Ivo Josipović, and in the organization of the Council of the Bosniak National Minority of the City of Zagreb.
Ultramarathoners from Croatia were running 227 kilometers from Vukovar to Srebrenica. They started on July 6 in memory of the victims of the two cities, as well as all the innocent victims in the past wars.
Since then, every year on July 6, runners cover the same 227 km route to recall the suffering of Vukovar and Srebrenica, as well as to encourage the resolution of the issue of missing persons.
Besides the ultramarathon, a peace march of ca 5000 people takes place in Srebrenica on the 10th of July, the same day that the runners arrive.
More info: #UltramarathonVukovarSrebrenica
6 October 2019: KOŠICE PEACE MARATHON
is the oldest marathon in Europe and the second oldest in the world after the Boston Marathon. The first marathon was held in 1924, inspired by the Olympic marathon in Paris in the same year. The first women’s race was held in 1980.
After World War II it became known as Marathon of Freedom and transformed later in Peace Marathon. Their charity program Running with a Heart supports care for little oncological patients, homeless people and the development of athletics.
It’s a flat road course of two laps through the historic city center of Košice, the second largest city in Slovakia.
The event includes a marathon, half-marathon and a relay and is held each year in the first week of October. It attracts more than 10.000 participants, both elite and fun runners.
More info: #KošicePeaceMarathon
10 November 2019: BEIRUT MARATHON
heads into its 16th year of bringing runners together from Lebanon and around the world for the greater purpose of peace and love.
It all began with a dream to build a running community and culture across Lebanon.
After surviving a near-fatal accident while running, May El Khalil began to actualize her dream: from her hospital bed she oversaw the emergence of the Beirut Marathon Association. Armed with determination, unwavering resolve, and the help of her family, friends, and a dedicated team of supporters, May succeeded in establishing one of the most successful running events in the region, the Beirut International Marathon.
The yearly event in November includes the Youth Race, Women’s Race, Half Marathon and Beirut International Marathon.
International Ambassador for the Beirut Marathon Association, Mo’ath Alkhawaldeh, spreads their message of togetherness, tolerance, and positivity.
Mo’ath Alkhawaldeh is a Jordanian marathon and half marathon runner who has represented Jordan in many national and international races. He hopes to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
He is a strong believer in the potential of sport to change individual behavior and transform wider conflicts, and he encourages young people in the Middle East to realize their own athletic potential and to begin positive change through sport.
More info: #BeirutMarathon
March 2020: IRAN MARATHON, IRAN (date to be confirmed)
In modern times the marathon has become a symbol of peace. Men from different nations run together in unity!
I run Iran is partnering with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons (ICAN) that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017!
This new marathon is about much more than running. Runners and supporters from more than 50 countries will attend this race to discover the Persian culture, history and food. Together they will enjoy, eat, discuss and celebrate.
This first Iran marathon intends to open New Horizons and make a better future.
Iran’s barring of women from spectating and participating in sporting events has been a controversial topic, particularly in the recent case of Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian law student who was jailed for attempting to watch a volleyball match. But in contrary to last year, women are allowed to participate in this second edition!
The race will be held in Tehran, the capital of Iran. All 1000 participants will finish at the colossal Azadi stadium which can host an impressive 90.000 people. The route is flat but high altitude (1100 m average). Distances you can choose from are the marathon (42.2K), half marathon (21.1K), 10K and 1K.
Finishers are honored at the palace of Darius the Great, the king who ruled the Persian empire at its peak.
21 March 2020: FREE MOVEMENT PALESTINE MARATHON
is an initiative to increase awareness about our right to freedom of movement as stated in Article 13 of the universal declaration of Human Rights.
The Palestine Olympic Committee (POC) is an independent civil organization that sponsors the Palestine Marathon. POC is recognized as a member in the International Olympic Committee which oversees Olympics and Sports Activities. Together they carry the mission to maintain and develop Olympic and Sport events held in Palestine to focus on the basic right to move freely in Palestine.
The Palestine Marathon’s aim is to establish a running culture in Palestine. It is an opportunity that provides Palestinians with the chance to move in a new and fun way which also builds a relationship based on the love for running and cultural exchange between Palestinians and the people from around the world.
The event is about showing the outside world a new side of Palestine and Palestinians. It is about creating awareness and building understanding across cultures. Palestine Marathon is about cultural exchange, cultural exploration, and understanding. It is free of any political agenda.
Nothing happens until something starts moving. So we want to move. Move with us.
The event includes a marathon, half marathon, 10K race and 3K family race.
More info: #PalestineMarathon
22 March 2020: SELMA TO MONTGOMERY 51 MILE RELAY, USA (date to be confirmed)
From Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, a race for walkers, runners and bikers, that remembers the historic march of 1965, led by Martin Luther King Jr.
The first attempt on March 7, 1965, ended in a “Bloody Sunday” when police attacked and tear-gassed 600 unarmed, peaceful marchers and 17 people were injured.
On March 21, 1965, flanked by members of the Alabama National Guard, the protestors tried again. They marched for five days along U.S. Highway 80, the men donning three-piece suits and the women in their best dresses and high heels. They camped at night along the way, and by the time they reached the capitol steps in Montgomery, it was estimated that they were more than 25,000 strong.
Sheyann Webb was only 8 years old in 1965 when she marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. “Growing up in the midst of racial discrimination, it was clear to me that black people weren’t given their proper rights,” she recalls.
Still very much an activist for racial equality and human rights at 63, Sheyann spoke at the 2019 relay: “When I see people coming together for the same mission, to run for something that’s very meaningful, then there’s hope,” she says.
More info: #SelmaToMontgomeryRelay
HISTORICAL RUNNING FOR PEACE EVENTS
6 May 2018: GREAT PEACE RUN, BELGIUM
In 2018 it was 100 years since World War I came to an end. The ‘Great War’ was the scene of unspeakable cruelty. One of the most important fronts was situated in the western-most part of Flanders, with Ypres as its focal point.
The opportunity to remember this historic moment alongside runners from all countries worldwide during the Great Peace Run: a half marathon visiting iconic monuments and places that played an important part in the events of 1918.
The course of this unique experience run and walk started at the famous Menin gate, continuing on through Flanders’ Fields, including Hill 60 and Hill 62. The finish is drawn on the town square of Ypres in front of the “In Flanders Fields” Museum.
More info: #GreatPeaceRun
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Resources / further reading
United Nations International Day of Sport for Development and Peace 6 April
Jess Owens, the legend and his endurance legacy
Olympic Games and developing Peace through Sport
The overarching peaceful power of the Olympic Games
Examples of Olympic Projects of Peace through Sports
3100, Run and become – the movie about the Self-Transcendence 3100 Miler
How Olympic weightlifter Waleed Abu Nada from Jordan helps to build inclusion in one of the world’s largest Palestinian refugee camps
Peace and Sport: an international, neutral and independent organization founded by Modern Pentathlon Olympic Medallist and World Champion Joël Bouzou to promote peace using the power of sport
Global Sports Mentoring Program: Empower Women through Sports and Sport for Community
Run for your Rights
The Paralympic Movement helps to increase inclusion by breaking down social barriers and discrimination towards people with an impairment
Olympic principles are United Nations principles
The history of the marathon as part of the Olympic Games