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• Published on 31 Jul. 2015 • Category :Sport • Tags : 2015


Powered by: Ambassador Derek Shearer, Professor of Diplomacy & World Affairs, Occidental College, United States


Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the Secretary General of the United Nations on Sport for Development and Peace, Germany

Jeremy Aisenberg, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, Octagon, United States

Emine Bozkurt, Member of the European Parliament, The Netherlands

Hannah Teter, Olympic gold medalist, snowboard halfpipe, Founder, Hannah’s Gold, United States

Dikembe Mutombo, Special Olympics Global Ambassador, former NBA All-Star, United States

A high-quality panel gathered to discuss the wide-ranging issues surrounding sports’ ability to effect social change around the world.

Former NBA All-Star and Special Olympics Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo captivated the audience as he discussed the positive impact basketball had enjoyed in countries such as Cuba and China.

Mutombo was part of the first ever NBA delegation to visit Cuba – an experience he ranks as one of the greatest of his life.

“It was a cultural bridge between two nations,” he revealed. “It brought all of us together and it helped us understand that, through the sport of basketball, we can all be united, live in peace, and work together.”

Emine Bozkurt, a member of the European Parliament, agreed that sport had the ability to bring about change for the better.

But she also warned that some countries needed to do more to make that happen, and questioned the motives of some nations hosting global sporting events.

“Some countries do things only for the prestige, and that can be counter-productive,” she warned, pulling no punches. “They are hosting big events but forgetting about human rights.”

The point resonated with Wilfried Lemke, a Special Adviser to the Secretary General of the United Nations on Sport for Development and Peace.

He has devoted much of his career to bringing local, national and international bodies together to implement real social change through sports.

And he launched an impassioned appeal for countries to try and work together as a catalyst for improving human rights, rather than fighting amongst themselves.

“We want to use sport as a tool for development of peace,” he said. “We should work on building friendship and respect with each other. We have different cultures and we must respect different cultures, but we must fight for human rights all over the world.”

The desire to bring about change was something the two other panelists, Olympic snow-boarding gold-medalist Hannah Teter and Jeremy Aisenberg, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Octagon, could identify with.

Teter’s campaigning over a two-year period played a vital role in enabling Special Olympics athletes to compete at the X Games.

She said: “Growing up in the small town of Vermont, I never realized how far you can take things if you believe in yourself and dream outside the box – those are the dreams that usually happen.”

Aisenberg agreed, saying that the desire for change had to come from within the individual, rather than have it forced upon them.

“It comes from within,” he stated. “Athletes get to a point where they are very grateful and want to give back and want the opportunity to leave a legacy and make a difference in someone’s life like sports has in theirs.” 


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