UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The president of the International Olympic Committee warned Wednesday against “political interference” in the universal rules of sport that can undermine the core principles of fair play, tolerance and non-discrimination.
Thomas Bach told the U.N. Security Council that the world needs the Olympic principles “of tolerance, solidarity and peace more than ever because we are living in a world full of crisis — political crisis, financial crisis, health crisis, terrorism, war ethnic and religious conflict.”
Speaking at the U.N. commemoration of the second annual International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, Bach said “sport has to be politically neutral, but it is not apolitical.”
He said the International Olympic Committee is engaging with governments, businesses, the academic community and many organizations. And it is supporting programs to promote conflict resolution, to bring hope to refugees, and to promote gender equality and healthier lifestyles, he said.
Bach urged the 193 U.N. member states to consider mandatory “quality physical education in primary and secondary school” which will provide “a strong incentive for school attendance and contribute to a broad spectrum of life skills.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also said sport “can help keep kids in school, promote leadership skills and healthy lifestyles, and empower marginalized people. And at times of conflict and unrest, sport can help provide victims with space to heal and grow.”
Tennis great Billie Jean King, a gay social justice trailblazer, spoke of her life-long campaign for equality for women, saying that through the Women’s Sports Foundation she established in 1974 and many other female-oriented organizations “women and girls are gaining confidence, strength, information and skills.”
“They are protecting themselves from disease and they are attending and staying in schools, and they are creating peaceful communities,” she said.
King said there should be no barriers for women: “I’ve always believed if you can see it, you can be it.
“Sports have no borders,” she said. “Success will be measured not by the number of champions we create in sports, but rather by the number of opportunities we provide through sports for others to succeed and become champions in life.”