28 September 2010, Montevideo, Uruguay – Yesterday, Wilfried Lemke, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, addressed the delegates of the 1st FINA World Aquatics Convention in Montevideo, Uruguay. Prior to the Convention, he visited Rio de Janeiro where he attended the 2010 edition of the Homeless World Cup and offered the assistance of the UN family in the preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Cooperation with Sports Federations

In his keynote speech at the opening of the first ever World Convention of the International Swimming Federation (FINA), Mr Lemke pointed out the important role sports federations can play towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. “No one dies from not learning how to play football or tennis; but people do die in great numbers from not learning how to swim,” Lemke declared. “By working hand in hand with the United Nations, the world of sport can save and improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

Earlier this year, on 30 April 2010, Mr Wilfried Lemke had already announced in Dubai the launch of a five-year partnership between the United Nations and SportAccord, the umbrella organisation grouping together 104 International Sports Federations and Organisations. In pointing to this cooperation, the Special Adviser now reiterated the necessity for international sports federations to join the UN in its continuous efforts to use sports as an important tool for social development.

2010 Homeless World Cup in Rio

Prior to his visit to Uruguay, Mr. Lemke paid a four-day visit to the host city of two upcoming major sport events, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro, where this year’s Homeless World Cup has also been hosted on Copacabana beach from 19 to 26 September. It was a unique opportunity for Mr Lemke to visit this remarkable initiative which gives homeless persons from around the world the opportunity to gain new confidence in life and has served as an incentive for many of its former participants to advance from their previous living situation.

“To experience the spirit of the participants, who do often not possess more than the very basic necessities in life, and to see them perform in a very motivated, ambitious and fair way, was an experience which cannot be equalled by the general football match everyone can visit,” Lemke stated. “Here, it is not the simple question of winning a tournament, but it is a question of finding a new path in life, which all players have fought for with great dignity – on an off the pitch.”

Upcoming mega-sports events in Brazil: a necessary legacy

During his visit to the Brazilian mega-city of 6 million inhabitants, the Special Adviser also seized the opportunity to meet with high ranking officials in the now commencing lead-up to both the upcoming world-class events the country will host in 2014 and 2016. In his talks with Márcia Lins, State Secretary for Tourism and Sports for the State of Rio de Janeiro, Vera Cintia Alvarez, Head of Sports in the Brazil Federal Ministry of Foreign Relations, Ricardo Texeira and Carlos Nuzman, respectively Presidents of the Local Organizing Committee of the 2014 FIFA Word Cup and 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Lemke insisted on the necessity to guarantee a long-term legacy for the local communities. On numerous occasions he stated that the UN know-how in the field of social development made the Organization particularly well placed to cooperate with all stakeholders involved in the preparations of the events.

At a round table discussion on Sport for Development and Peace on 23 September, co-organised by the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV), the Sports Ministry and the Foreign Ministry of Brazil, Lemke strongly emphasised the relevance of the acquired knowledge and experiences from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and pledged for the Brazilian tournaments to create an equal legacy for the Brazilian people.

Lemke impressed by grassroots community projects

Upon three further visits to grass roots projects, assembled under the roof of the Brazilian branch of the Sport for Social Change Network (SSCN), the Special Adviser was able to witness the dedication of some of the numerous Brazilian actors in Sport and Development on a first hand basis. Among the three were a social and educational programme dedicated to under-privileged youth around the city of Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, which offers a combination of sailing activities (Grael Project), the NGO Fight for Peace, established in 2000 by former English amateur boxer Luke Dowdney in the Complexo da Maré – a complex of favelas in Rio de Janeiro, and the NGO Instituto Reacao, offering judo practice and complementing activities in low income areas of the city.

Lemke concluded his stay in Rio de Janeiro by joining the group of international Photographers for Hope — led by renowned photojournalist David Burnett — for a public photo exhibition opened on 24 September 2010 on the theme of Sport for Social Change. The exhibition is due to be shown in a number of cities internationally still to come.


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