British Prime Minister Gordon Brown launches Sport for Development (S4D)
By Vivek Ramchandani
It is hard to imagine a more powerful medium than sport, to inspire and bring people together to share common cause.
A few years ago, ‘Lagaan’, a spectacular period movie about cricket, evoked tremendous national pride, as the underdog protagonists battled their imperial oppressors on the unlikely battleground of a rural cricket field.
Last year, ‘Chak De’, another inspiring film about the trials and tribulations of an Indian women’s hockey team, touched a chord in the collective consciousness of the nation, arousing a powerful sense of self-belief all across the country, from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari.The three-year pilot is the start of a larger programme called ‘International Inspiration’, which will deliver on the UK government’s promise to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), to engage and inspire the youth of the world through sport.
It was only fitting then, that during his January 2008 visit, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown chose India to announce the launch of a GBP 9 million pilot programme to promote both sport development and development through sport, in 5 developing countries – Azerbaijan, Brazil, India, Palau and Zambia.
He went on to explain that in addition to supporting the development of sport and promoting sporting excellence, International Inspiration would use the power of sport to transform and enrich the lives of millions of children and young people of all abilities, from the most disadvantaged communities across the globe.
It would also help raise awareness of the issues faced in the developing world through purposeful school links to be established by the British Council.
The greater part of the British Prime Minister’s commitment of GBP 3.6 million for India, will be strategically employed by UNICEF, in backward districts of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Maharashtra and West Bengal, to facilitate the development of children in schools and communities through sport.
The core thrust of UNICEF’s current education programme in India aims to reduce educational disparity and enhance the quality of education at government primary schools through an essential set of holistic quality interventions, presently being implemented at approximately 11,000 primary schools across the country.
In keeping with the tenets that govern holistic quality education, there is already broad consensus that regular physical activity is essential for the physical, mental, psychological and social development of children and adolescents.
But the benefits of sport are more than just physical. Sport is an effective tool to help achieve goals in health, education, HIV/AIDS prevention, child protection and child development.
It is this that underlies the concept of ‘Sport for Development’ (S4D) – that sport is not just an end in itself, but also a key tool to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals and improve the lives of the most marginalised and excluded children.
He said to Lakshmi after watching the film “I was yesterday in Beijing, and I have seen the Olympic Stadium and I know you will be on the winner’s podium at the Beijing Olympics”. Lakshmi is a gold medallist in archery.
Later Mr.Gordon Brown took time out of his busy schedule to meet UNICEF Girl Star Lakshmi, and watched a short film depicting the rise of the girl archer from a village in Jharkhand.
Archery is one of the four sports being focused on under the International Inspiration programme, where UK Sport is working in partnership with the Archery Association of India.
The UNICEF Representative to India Dr Gianni Murzi, senior officials from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Sports Federations, Ministry of HRD, School Board CBSE, Central School Organisation (KVS), were also present on the occasion.
Also present were children from a neighbouring disadvantaged community who were part of a programme run by UNICEF with the help of Magic Bus, an NGO which uses Sport for Development.
Augustine Veliath also contributed to this story.