Unfortunately in Nepal and elsewhere sports have been a sector wherefrom many unscrupulous people have taken undue benefits
The Commonwealth might not shine as a powerful group of nations, but it still has some relevance as a soft power, bringing together nations who shared, in most of the cases, a conflicted past, but are now bound together as equals to achieve common prosperity. Among the many initiatives promoted by the organization, Commonwealth Games stands on its own, being an important display of world class athletes representing the 71 member nations.
The 21st games started in the Gold Cost on April 4. Australia with thousands of participants comprising of able bodies and disabled athletes has been working with the International Paralympics Committee to make adaptive sports a key feature of the games. “It is fantastic news for all Commonwealth para-athletes that Gold Coast 2018 will stage the biggest para-sport program to date at a Commonwealth Games,” shares Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee.
The Winter Paralympics Games held in South Korea was a tremendous success. It was really encouraging to watch global news channels reporting results and gestures of athletes living with disabilities striving to go beyond their limits.
The timing of the games is even more propitious because April 6 is observed as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, a celebration that has more and more prominence across the world. The celebration goes well beyond adaptive sports and embraces the power of sports in its entirety, highlighting the social “mission” of playing that can have, if properly harnessed, a special role in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Sports can be a great equalizer as it can bring together people from different communities. It has been increasingly used as a methodology to deal with conflicts and ethnic tension. In Europe, which is dealing with one of its biggest challenges in the form of uncontrolled migration from Africa, important resources are used to create social harmony and cohesion between migrants and local communities. In Nepal there are also signs that sports can be taken to a different level.
Adaptive Sports are particularly thriving. Thanks to a strong local civil society and few international donors for promoting the rights of persons living with disabilities. Sports for able bodied persons, still the mainstream, are also showing some encouraging signals of vitality.
Now we see leading cricket players, upon their successful attempt to gain ODI status, re-claiming the prominence of sports over politics. Gaining this prestigious status emboldened our cricket players to step up and demand accountability and transparency, pushing not only for a better cricket system in the country, but also for a “cleaner” Nepal.
Any action that puts transparency first contributes to national goal of eliminating unethical behaviors that influence the policy makers. Unfortunately in Nepal and elsewhere sports have been a sector wherefrom many unscrupulous people have taken undue benefits. Hopefully things will get better and that’s why it is relevant to think about sports which play a crucial role in harnessing untapped potentials.
Recently concluded KWIKS Basketball League, organized by Play for Deprived Children (PDCN), a local NGO, has given a hope to a lot of youngsters who love basketball and enjoy playing not only for the sake of playing, but also as a way to gain self-confidence, build their team playing skills and personal leadership.
After all, there are so many NBA or NHL players who have opportunity to find a new goal in life. It is true that sports help youths to avoid street violence. From South America to Africa and Europe there have been a plenty of top football players who found in sport playing a pathway out of poverty and desperation.
Case of Nepal
I personally know many local youths in Nepal with or without disabilities are doing very well in basketball court. Keeping their personal issues aside, I have found them learning important life skills through regular training. Sports indeed have helped them a lot to do something in their lives.
From tennis table to boccia ball and to blind cricket and badminton, there are many outstanding examples of engaging youths for positive social change through sports. For example, for this year’s celebration of International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, Nepal Table Soccer Association is organizing a program called ‘Table Soccer as Inclusive Sport’ that invited teachers to learn about the power of table soccer to work and engage children.
This same week an important wheelchair basketball tournament was organized in Pokhara—thanks to the will and determination of local organizations there. Over 50 players from Kathmandu visited the lake city to promote adaptive sports.
Recently the American State Department supported Cricket Association of Blind (CAB) to organize a female women wheelchair basketball tournament. On International Women Day the Ambassador of Australia entertained school children by playing badminton as part of a global initiative supported by the Government of Australia under its Australian Government’s Asian Sports Partnership Program.
The children with autism have marked World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. These are all exciting initiatives. Perhaps the time has come to build a broad alliance between various social and profit making organizations to yield a meaningful outcome in the society.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has said, “Sport is a valuable asset, making an important contribution to strengthening the economic, social and cultural bonds of our growing Commonwealth family. The reach and impact of the Commonwealth Games exemplifies this.”
From the Gold Cost to Kathmandu there is a long way. Yet Nepal has lots of potential and vibrancy. The new government in Nepal seems to be really committed to bring a new zeal and dynamism in sports.
The author is the Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities