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Olympic athletes describe the power of sport to change the world

Olympic athletes describe the power of sport to change the world

Leading athletes, influencers and innovators have been sharing their thoughts on the role that sport can play in building a better world for all, in UN-led online discussions held to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics.

“Sport becomes something that can change the life of refugees who are living in refugee camps. Because they can achieve something, they can overcome anything that they pass through…and it gives them a platform”, says Pur Biel, a member of the first-ever Olympic Refugee Team at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

Mr. Biel, a participant in the UN’s SDG Zone at Tokyo series of online talks this week, explained how sport had helped him to live through traumatic experiences in his home country, South Sudan.

The athlete’s experience was echoed by the many other speakers, who shared a common message; that sport can bring about positive transformation in the world, from bringing hope to refugees, to encouraging climate action, and building societies where everyone can excel, regardless of their background.

Tsuyoshi Kitazawa, a former member of Japan’s national football team, stressed the role of sport in building bridges: “whatever you feel in the Games is made possible because the world is playing as one team”, he said. Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, added that the values sport promotes, such as mutual respect, teamwork, equality, and fair play, are very similar to those that help to promote the development of peace.

In the video focusing on sustainability and climate action, Hannah Mills, an Olympic sailor and founder of the Big Plastic Pledge movement to end single plastic use, noted that athletes can have a positive influence over the businesses and brands that support them as sponsors.

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