Over the last decade, more than 1400 agencies across the globe initiated sport-based educational programs to address conflict, adversity, health, equality, homelessness and unemployment. While the emerging “sport for peace and development” global practice is a relatively new practice, as a concept- its roots lay in Pierre De Coubertin’s Olympism vision; Olympic Truce and the philosophy of the Ancient Olympic Games.
Supported by the International Olympic Academy (IOA), International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Olympic Truce Center (IOTC),United Nations office of Sport for Peace and Development (UNOSPD), the EU Commission and a number of humanitarian and sport for peace and development agencies, this comparatively new practice is an emerging global movement that can potentially advance the integration of Olympism, Peacebuilding, Global Health and International Development.
Despite the increased global interest to promote the concept of Olympism (sport, arts, education and cultural enrichment) in practice, the sport for peace and development (SPD) academician, researcher, policy-maker and practitioner is expected to possess skills and competencies that traditional sport academic programs do not provide. While a number of scholars, policy makers, practitioners and humanitarian agencies have been more intensively engaging - over the last ten years - in discourses and programming related to global existing challenges and the UN MDGs, most engaged critical scholars and practitioners urge the need for further action by: (a) providing more opportunities to underserved communities, (b) advancing applied and ongoing scientific evidence on positive impact and elements of effective programming, (c) providing ongoing theory-based academic and professional training, (d) creating conditions for sustainable programming and (d) enhancing purpose-driven international inter-institutional collaborations that will embrace this vision.
Following the logic of the axiom that universities serve as institutions that produce knowledge and innovation, the impact of the “day after” April 6, 2014, depends on the changes we will see within the academic world- and the bridges, both scholars and practitioners will build between theory and practice- across disciplines and agencies as part of and their everyday day life- personal and professional. Building on the momentum and the global excitement of the first International Day on Sport for Development and Peace we invite the global Olympism in Action and Sport for Peace and Development community in a global gathering at the birthplace of the Olympic Spirit, where each one of us can reflect, inspire one another- talk about Olympism in Action global strategy and create the conditions where each one of us will support one another to “walk the talk” …the day after April 6th, 2014.
Under the patronage of Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, Member of the European Commission, the International Olympic Academy, Georgetown University, the International Olympic Truce Center and the O4H Alliance, I would like to invite the global Sport for Peace and Development community and the Olympism in Action community for an introspective, life changing and reflective gathering at the birthplace of the ancient Olympic spirit. The global gathering (2014 Olympism4Humanity Summit), will take place in Athens and Ancient Olympia on June 28th- July 2nd, 2014. This summit will serve as a platform for introspection- and another step towards the establishment of a global consortium of academics, policymakers and practitioners in which the power of sport and Olympism, will be further explored to advance scholarship, educational programs, training and mobility.
If we look around us today- and tomorrow- we can still observe the direct and indirect effects of the global economic recession; we will still have high unemployment, poverty, and civic disengagement rates- and all these challenges “feed the seeds” of xenophobia, immigration, war and violence across groups and cultures.
While a number of scholars, academics, policy makers, practitioners and humanitarian agencies have been engaging in discourses and programming related to the resolution of existing social challenges, “the problems around us grow faster than the actions each one of us is taking.”
Based on the foundation that “we can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” (Albert Einstein) the Olympism4Humanity Summit is aiming to establish a world leading platform of an inter-disciplinary community where scholars, researchers, thinkers, policy-makers, and practitioners work collaboratively “to explore and enhance the contribution of Olympism to humanity.” We envision that this platform will serve as an introspective venue- for a journey across “time and space”-in an attempt to build bridges across disciplines, cultures and institutions- merging development, social cohesion, civic engagement, peacebuilding, innovation and rule of law.
Our goal is to create an inspiring and enlightened setting for the advancement of a discourse about social innovation and collective global-local actions where the academic world can be connected to the challenges of our local communities.
Our challenge is to advance applied interdisciplinary scholarship and civic engagement opportunities that will potentially reform the role of academic institutions into agencies that reach out and engage, support and collaborate with humanitarian, youth, peace and health policy makers and practitioners for the improvement of the human condition. Based on the Socratic notion of wisdom, this summit will serve as a journey of knowledge uninhibited by borders of language, discipline, culture, time and tradition. Questioning our current state of being (personal and institutional) will advance collective knowledge and actions towards the improvement of the human condition-locally and across globe.
This summit aims to serve as a space for introspection, inspiration, as well as a foundation for creating actions geared towards building a humanitarian Legacy. We therefore invite you to join a dynamic community at the birthplace of the Olympic Spirit: Olympia. There, Olympism, peacebuilding, democracy, philosophy, arts, science, health and civic engagement were originally embraced as vital and essential elements of society, and as the necessary components of a holistic educational philosophy of a balanced mind, body and spirit. Join us in Olympia to light your Olympism4Humanity “torch” and become an “Olympian” in service of humanity. Join us in Olympia this summer and become a member of Olympism4Humanity Alliance where each one of us will be supporting one another in a life-long journey of transforming “…cheer leading” into “Change leading” actions where the “score” is kept on scholarship, positive impact, and programs produced in service of improving human condition.
Alexis Lyras, PhD
Special Advisor to the IOA on Olympism, Peacebuilding and International Development
Generations for Peace Fellow, Georgetown University
April 6, 2014