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Human rights and youth sport
Human rights and youth sport
Human Rights, in one form or another, existed in all societies since ancient times. All communities and individuals wanted justice, which, in effect, was the human capacity for freedom, living peacefully and harmoniously, and respecting the human dignity of other members of the community.
All religions of the world teach us to be righteous. We need to comprehend what is right and what is wrong, but also to treat others always as you would like others to treat you.
When communities evolved into states, certain codified sets of rules began to develop – the so-called club rules. Individual moral laws submerged into societal codes. The influence of society on individuals is undoubtedly stronger than any genetic influence and almost totally responsible for everything that makes us both human and moral.
The world has been ever grateful to ancient Greece for formulating many aspects of our present-behavior. Be it democracy, philosophy, mathematics or ethics, they all largely emanate from the city-state of Athens. But Athens was not a Utopia. Women and slaves had no political say. And, as is usually the case, the rich and powerful still got to be policy makers and exert more influence than ordinary citizens.
Most of the menial activities, like working in the silver mines in appalling conditions and engaging in domestics work, were carried out by slaves. Greek philosophers, who were constantly preaching moral values, had no qualms in owning slaves. It was the norm those days.
In fact, the institution of slavery was an accepted practice in most parts of the world until the late 17th century. The Europeans, because of their powerful armed-forces, dominated the so-called slave industry. Africa became the large- scale source for this vicious practice, with large numbers being shipped to the Americas. The Dutch had no scruples in introducing it in the East Indies. The practice of slavery was undoubtedly the most abominable violation of human rights.
The American Civil War was largely a conflict regarding the institution of slavery. Abraham Lincoln is still revered all over the world as the liberator of slaves in the United States.
This year, the world is commemorating the start of World War I, which began in 1914 and went on until 1918. In 1939, World War II commenced and only ended in 1945. Gross abuses of human rights took place during these wars. In the aftermath of the atrocities of World War II, there was increased concern for the social and legal protection of human rights as fundamental freedoms.
With the founding of the United Nations, the international community vowed never again to allow atrocities like those committed during World War II happen again. On 10 December 1945 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, this did not mean the cessation of all violations of human rights. To this day, the United Nations still unearths serious violations of human rights.
Who is a youth? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) organizes Youth Olympic Games; and restricts participants to 18 years. In some countries, when sport is organized for youth, the age limit is 25. In dealing with sport matters the European Non-Governmental Sports Organisation (ENGSO) aims to represent the interest of people under the age of 35, and to provide assistance, guidance and advice to children and youth sport.
The concept of youth sport goes back to antiquity. Events for boys were introduced in 632 BC at the Ancient Olympic Games. The age stipulation was between seventeen years and twenty. However, it was difficult for the judges to determine eligibility, as there were no documents proving the age of each participant. Usually the judges decided by assessing the respective body of each athlete. Events for boys included the stade race, wrestling, boxing and pankration. Contests between boy athletes pleased the crowds and even Olympic legends and stories grew out of these events. As was then customary, boys were allowed to bring along their guardians to the Games.
Girls were not allowed to compete at the Olympic Festivals, but competitions were held for them at other Games and during non-Olympic years.
The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) have now become a regular feature in the Olympic calendar. The first Games were held in Singapore in 2010. This was followed, two years later, by the Winter YOG in Innsbruck. Nanjing will host the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in August, while nowadays many international federations organize other age-group competitions.
Rights and Obligations
The IOC, under the direction of its President, Dr Thomas Bach, has initiated discussions on the Olympic Agenda 2020. Members made many fruitful contributions at the IOC Session in Sochi during the Winter Olympic Games. The contributions concerned the three overarching themes of sustainability, credibility and youth. They were structured into five categories:
1. Uniqueness of the Olympic Games
2. Athletes at the heart of the Olympic Movement
3. Olympism in Action: Keeping Olympism alive for all 365 days of the year
4. The IOC’s role: unity in diversity
5. IOC structure and organization
Youth Sport is a crucial component in the Olympic Agenda 2020, as one element of the IOC’s global youth strategy. The Olympic Values Education Program (OVEP) is a tool to maintain young people’s interest in sport, encouraging them to become active and promote social inclusion. Some of the key messages include:
1. Building self-esteem and other important life-skills
2. Empowering women and girls
3. Integration of marginalized groups
4. Improve education performances
5. Help combat obesity, chronic diseases and HIV and AIDS
6. Recovery from trauma
The United Nations is now actively involved in the promotion of youth sports. The resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 23 August 2013 states that:
[...] it recognized that sport, as a tool for education, development and peace, can promote cooperation, solidarity, tolerance, understanding, social inclusion and health at local, national and international levels. [...] the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, in which it promotes healthy lifestyles, in particular through physical activity.
The Youth Olympic Games goes well beyond just organizing sports competitions. Social cohesion and education programs regarding fair play, teamwork, the dangers of taking prohibited substances as well as practising a healthy lifestyle form part of the order of events during the Games.
A most encouraging aspect of the inaugural Singapore Games was the birth of the new Olympic star who beat the iconic Michael Phelps in the 200m Butterfly at the 2012 London Olympic Games. In total, there were 193 athletes in London who had competed in Singapore two years earlier; and they won an impressive 25 medals, including eight gold.
This is a highly promising achievement for the future of youth sports.
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RAMSAMY Sam, "Human rights and youth sport", in: K. Georgiadis(ed.), Olympic values: Respect for diversity, 54th International Session for Young Participants (Ancient Olympia, 15-29/6/2014), International Olympic Academy, Athens, 2015, pp.140-144.