Articles & Publications
Sport as a tool for Inclusion of Refugees, Immigrants and Ex-Addicts in Local Communities
Sport has the power to promote values and contribute to the development of the life skills needed for responsible citizenship. In addition, sport has a tremendous capacity to bring people together, promoting a more inclusive and peaceful world through its values and principles. Sport can help individuals transmit and harness values in their daily lives by engaging with their communities and making the right decisions. The first part of this lecture aims to examine the role of the Olympic Movement and policymakers in the refugee crisis and to present sport and exercise programmes for refugees and immigrants to further their inclusion in society. The focus of the “exercise programme for refugees” is on promoting equality in society, acting against xenophobia and racism, through sports and physical activities, to struggle against all forms of intolerance. The second part of this lecture focuses on the role of sports and physical activities against addiction and the role they play in the social inclusion of the ex-addicted. Sport can offer ex-addicts the opportunity to identify and create new healthy priorities and to revitalise personal qualities and values that were buried by drug use. The values gained by addicts as part of their sports experience have an immense impact on every aspect of their life in the short and long term.
Modern societies are suffering from a number of racist hostilities as well as various incidents of intolerance towards minorities. In addition to this, actions against racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance seek to bring people together and give extra momentum to the struggle against all forms of intolerance. Multicultural societies are a common phenomenon in many countries. Therefore, new challenges emerge at both national and international levels, and successful adaptation to the phenomena of migration and the violent displacement of refugees arises as a fundamental issue. Sport has always been regarded as a vehicle for bringing people together, and there has been an increasing interest in using sports as a tool to promote integration in multicultural societies. Relevant studies indicated that sport could play an important role in young migrants’ acculturation process and in the promotion of social integration in today’s multicultural societies (Morela et al., 2016).
In Greece, some years ago, an exercise programme focused on the promotion of equality in society through sports and physical activities was implemented. The title of this programme was “The Kallipateira Project: from sports to everyday life, all different, all equal”. The programme was based on the promotion of Olympic values, emphasising the ideals of equality in the school community, as well as promoting equal participation in the social and cultural sphere. The aim of this project was to help and encourage teachers and students to promote a healthy, extroverted and tolerant society through physical education and sports. The programme also focused on gender equality, on fighting-racism, xenophobia and intolerance, and on how to live and work together in a spirit of cooperation. As part of this programme various educational materials were developed, consisting of a teacher’s book and three students’ activities books for elementary and secondary schools (Theodorakis et al., 2008). The thematic units related to the following topics: a) human rights, b) cultural diversity, c) racism and xenophobia, d) gender equality in education and society e) social inequalities and social discrimination. The project succeeded in using sports against xenophobia, discrimination, racism and prejudice, and incorporating the values of equality in society through sports and physical education.
The role of the Olympic Movement in the refugee crisis
During the last Olympic Games, refugee athletes competed in Rio 2016. These athletes acted as symbols of hope for refugees worldwide, attracting global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis when they participated in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. It was a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. The Olympic Games themselves appear as an example of peaceful social coexistence of athletes from different sporting and cultural backgrounds. Olympism’s general philosophy and Olympic values are based on the principles of peace, fair play and fair contest and aim to create a peaceful society with less violence and competition (Theodorakis, 2018).
“Exercise and Sports programme for refugees”
Based on the above ascertainment, and in accordance with the spirit of the Olympic Movement, an “Exercise, and Sport programme for refugees” was implemented at the University of Thessaly and the Department of Physical Education and Sport Science in cooperation with the UN High Commissionaire for Refugees in Greece. The aim of this programme was to teach university students how to work with young refugees in sports and exercise programmes. It also had the aim of encouraging young refugees to actively participate in sports and physical activities. The programme’s overall aim was to help refugees to become incorporated and included in Greek society and to inspire the ideas of equality in society, interaction, respect for human rights, acceptance of others and cultural communication, cooperation and team building, regardless of sex, race, religion, minority groups, culture, etc. Other aims of the programme were to promote intercultural education and its role in sports and games in the spirit of fair play and the philosophy of Olympic values philosophy. The programme also promoted respect for other participants, acceptance of the rules of the games, enjoyment of the game, learning from the game, improving communication skills and gaining new friends. It also fostered ideas of equality, solidarity, cooperation, rejection of racial and sex discrimination and gender bias. Finally, it strove to send a message to society that, in sport and life, all people are different and all people are equal.
The methodology was based on introducing games and activities that will help to create a good group atmosphere and reinforce communication skills and group dynamics; introducing activities which will provide an insight into our images of people from cultures, countries or social origins different from our own; introducing activities that will enable people to discover and get to know each other’s education, culture, name, etc.; introducing sports activities and games which will give people the opportunity to discover and understand, on knowing each other, that people from different cultures and societies may see the world from different perspectives and, finally, being open to learning from the participants. In general, in this programme, we introduced the spirit of fair play through games, sports and activities, via team-building games andngames that lead to mutual understanding, all in the spirit of the Olympic values (Hassandra et al., 2008; Theodorakis, 2018).
To sum up, sports can encourage interaction among people who have different lifestyles, values and cultures. Sports can promote relationships between majorities and minorities in our societies. The Olympic Movement, as well as national and governmental bodies, can move forward an increased participation in sports by refugee groups. Policymakers, stakeholders, and ministries of education should adopt policies in order to encourage physical activities among refugee groups (Theodorakis, 2018).
The FutbolNet programme
The FutbolNet project was implemented by the Danish Refugee Council in Greece, as part of the “Improving the Greek Reception System through Site Management Support and Targeted Interventions in Long-Term Accommodation Sites” project, in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and supported by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the European Commission Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME). A part of the programme was implemented by the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences (DPESS) of the University of Thessaly. It was a three-month programme that took place in the DPESS, and was run three times per week by the department’s trainers. Thirty young refugees and Greek high schools students from Trikala city participated. The programme uses physical activity and sport as an agent of change for children and young people in vulnerable environments. FutbolNet promotes the values of FC Barcelona - effort, respect, teamwork, humility and ambition - as construed from the culture of cooperation, where the values benefit the individual and the community as a whole, providing important new experiences in social interaction. The objectives of the programme were focused on improving the mental and physical well-being of refugee children and children in the host community, on increasing the cooperation and participation of children, and finally, on strengthening the interaction between refugee children and children from the host community. http://www.drc.ngo/
Sports against addiction
It seems that participation in sports and physical activity has a protective effect against alcohol abuse as well as a supportive effect on cessation treatments. The beneficial effects of physical exercise on the treatment of alcohol abuse are related to the release of endorphins, which can generate feelings of pleasure, improve mood, and reduce depression, control stress, increase self-efficacy, and social support. Exercise will result in elevated levels of beta-endorphin which in turn will cause a euphoric feeling avoiding the intake of alcohol. Physical exercise seems to help in alcohol abstinence, as an adjunctive strategy, during and after alcohol abuse treatment (Zourbanos et al, 2011).
Addiction to drugs is increasingly becoming a worldwide trend in lifestyle that is prevalent in rich and poor countries alike. It is estimated that 246 million people, or 1 out of 20 individuals aged from 15 to 64 years old, used illicit drugs in 2013, and 10% of them have been addicted to one or more psychoactive substances. Addictive behaviour is related to stress, depression, and bad mood. Many forms of exercise and physical activities are associated with increased psychological well-being, strength and vitality, and a sense of “feeling better”, an increased capacity to manage stress, depression, anger, and fatigue, as well as increased vigour. This feeling is connected to physical activity; participation may increase individuals’ confidence to quit unhealthy behaviours and might lead to reductions in withdrawal symptoms (e.g., stress, depression, irritability, restlessness, poor concentration). Exercise improves the sense of control, the sense of self-efficacy, self-image, and self-esteem and promotes more positive social relationships.
Recently, some studies indicated that sport and physical activity play an important and supportive role in the treatment and the prevention of the use of psychoactive substances as they reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms, improve self-confidence, self-esteem and body image and enhance mood states, general well-being and quality of life while also offering the opportunity to attain a pleasant mental state without substance use. Sport and physical activity also
give people the opportunity to make a positive change to their lifestyle. All the above-mentioned psychological changes have been closely linked to positive substance-related outcomes such as reduced drug intake, increased abstinence rate, reduced craving, a higher completion rate for the rehabilitation programme, altered behaviour and prevention of relapses. Indeed, they create positive social outcomes such as finding a home and employment, and developing friendship networks. A relevant study indicated, after a six-month intervention programme, that exercise programmes should be included in the philosophy of any rehabilitation programme for drug addiction. Participants stressed that exercise helped improve their mood, self-esteem, energy levels, body sensation and body image, and also helped them to release tension, both physical and mental, and to adopt healthier eating habits (Diamantis et al., 2018).
Our research team completed a project called, the “Reintegration Through Sport” project. The project focused on the benefits of outdoor sports activities in order to create a secure environment, giving ex-drug addicts equal opportunities, contributing to their treatment and social reintegration. Adventure therapy (AT) is an experiential and interactive intervention, which is based on psychosocial and educational theories. AT utilises outdoor adventure activities as a primary therapeutic tool, promoting real or perceived physical and psychological risk as a clinically important factor in achieving the desired outcomes. It can be applied as an exclusive, complementary or parallel therapeutic tool to treat a wide range of mental disorders. AT utilises outdoor adventure activities as well as a range of activities including goal setting, confidence and problem-solving approaches that are physically and/or psychologically demanding to promote personal change such as positive reinforcement of the individual’s self-esteem and self-efficacy. Successful completion of these activities could enhance self-efficacy especially when
performance is the result of individual competence rather than incidental or external events. The relevant study indicated that adventure therapy offers an alternative therapeutic approach to addiction counselling by creating positive changes. The study provides supportive evidence that participation in an adventure-
based therapy programme had a significant impact on the addicted person’s self-concept by enhancing the psychological factors of self-efficacy and self-esteem (Panagiotounis et al., 2020).
The Olympic Movement can help in the refugee crisis and refugees’ inclusion in society. The Olympic Movement should give prominence to policies which promote, apply and incorporate these values through sport, physical education,nor exercise environment. Policymakers should take initiatives for refugees to be included in society through sports and physical activities. The OlympicnMovement can promote the importance of sports for health and, among othernthings, can focus on addicted groups. Based on the underlying mechanisms ofnthe positive effects of exercise and sports on alcohol and drug abuse and thenbenefits of sports and exercise programmes on addictive behaviours, it seemsnthat sports and physical activities can contribute to the creation of a securenenvironment, giving all these addicted groups equal opportunities, contributing to their treatment and social reintegration. Participation in sports and physical activities is negatively related to these habits. Overall, exercise seems to havena protective effect against alcohol and drug use as well as a supportive effectnon treatments. To sum up, the Olympic Movement may play a leading rolenin promoting innovative sport and exercise programmes for the inclusion ofnrefugees, immigrants and ex-addicts in local communities.
Theodorakis, Y. (2018). The role of the Olympic Movement in refugee crisis. An exercise programme for refugees. Olympism and Governance. 12th International
Session for Educators of Higher Institutes of Physical Education, pp. 95-101. International Olympic Academy. Ancient Olympia. http://ioa.org.gr/wp-content/
Diamantis, P., Theodorakis, Y., & Goudas M., (2017). The impact of exercise on drug addiction treatment, Exartisis, 29, pp. 13-32. https://www.researchgate.net/ publication/328784028_Diamantis_P_Theodorakis_Y_Goudas_M_2017_The_impact_of_exercise_on_drug_addiction_treatment_Exartisis_29_13-32
International Olympic Committee (2016). The Olympic Values Education Programme. Retrieved from https://www.olympic.org/olympic-values-and-education-programme
Morrela, E., Elbe, A. M., Theodorakis, Y., & Hatzigeorgiadis, A. (2019). Sport participation and acculturative stress of young migrants in Greece: The role of sport
motivational environment. International Journal of Intercultural Studies, 71, pp. 24-30.
Teaching awareness of ethical governance in Sports. http://tagsproject.eu/Hassandra, M., Goudas, M., Hatzigeorgiadis, A., & Theodorakis, Y. (2007). A Fair Play intervention program in school Olympic education. European Journal of Psychology of Education, XXII (2), pp. 99-114.
Morela, E., Hatzigeorgiadis, A., Sanchez, X., Elbe, A. M. (2016). Promoting acculturation through sport: An ethnic-cultural identity approach. In Raab, M., Wylleman,P., Seiler, R., Elbe, A.M., & and Hatzigeorgiadis, A. (Eds), Sport and Exercise Psychology Research: From Theory to Practice (pp. 211-225). New York: Elsevier.
Theodorakis et al., (2008). The Kalipateira project. From sport to daily life. All equal –all different. Greek Ministry of Education. http://lab.pe.uth./psyc/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=105&Itemid=256&lang=el.
Articles & Publications
Articles & Publications