Over 120 Commonwealth Sports and Health Ministers, sports industry professionals and stakeholders from bodies like UNESCO, the Commonwealth Advisory Body on Sport (CABOS), the Olympic movement and FIFA have come together for a roundtable breakfast in Kigali– ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on Saturday.
Birmingham 2022 (starting in just over a month’s time on 28 July) was hailed as an opportunity to leverage the power and popularity of sport to drive social change, promote sustainable development and improve global health outcomes following the pandemic.
Speaking at the opening of the event, Dr Suddhoo, Arjoon, Deputy Secretary-General, Office of the Secretary-General said: “Sport serves as a major catalyst for inclusive development for all 2.6 billion Commonwealth citizens, 60 % of whom are young people under the age of 30.
“Beyond its convening power, sport is also an important tool for ensuring that the social and health gains made prior to the COVID-19 pandemic are restored and accelerated. This is what the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK, represent.
“The Games speak to the resilient and inspiring nature of sport, they showcase how we are finding ways to re-energise communities and development opportunities, whilst reminding us of our collective heritage, embedded within our shared Commonwealth values.”
It was echoed by Lord Ahmad, Minister for Foreign Commonwealth & Development Affairs, who shared the UK Government’s vision for the Games and its legacy.
He said: “Big sporting events like the Commonwealth Games are an opportunity to see world-class sportspeople in action.
“The UK has a brilliant track record for hosting events like this – from the London 2012 Olympics to the 2014 Games back in Glasgow. And, every time we do, we’re reminded of the sheer power of sport and its impact on communities. From positive memories of sporting achievements, to employment opportunities and images of children learning to swim, young people representing a local athletics club and communities coming together to get active.”
He showed a new trailer for the Commonwealth Games.
Also speaking at the breakfast, facilitated by Commonwealth Secretariat, hosted by the Government of Rwanda and and sponsored by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), was CGF President, Dame Louise Martin CBE.
She said: “We believe sport has the power to bring us together, reconcile our differences and inspire us to change our lives for the better.
“It is sport that underpins our values of humanity, equality and destiny. It also sits at the centre of our vision which states: ’Through sport, we create peaceful, sustainable and prosperous communities across the Commonwealth’.
We see this vision manifesting itself in the lead up to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.”
The roundtable heard how the inspiring example of the Games, and the athletes taking part, should be used to galvanise support from a broad spectrum of leaders for development ambitions across the Commonwealth – particularly when Ministers come together at the accompanying 10th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting (10CSMM) in Birmingham on 27 July. The theme of will be ‘Creating an inclusive and resilient sport sector; enhancing the contribution of sport to the Sustainable Development Goals’ and will see Ministers agreeing and setting sport-related goals for the Commonwealth.
Participants in the roundtable noted the importance of maintaining a collaborative Commonwealth approach and building partnerships between stakeholders and governments to fully realise the potential of sport as a development tool - especially as member states explore policy options in the post-COVID-19 context.
After an hour of lively discussion, it was also suggested that the Commonwealth Games be used as an example to inspire and fuel stakeholder’s ambitions towards creating fairer, more equal societies and to tackling burgeoning conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Rwanda Minister for Sport, Aurore Mimosa Munyangaju said: “Rwanda remains a strong supporter of inclusion through sports. As a matter of fact, sport has played and plays to date an important role in the reconstruction of our nation and of our people from our tragic past.
“Today we are ever more convinced that sports is a much needed tool not only for health, professional achievements (to mention but a few), but also for bringing people together with a common understanding and a common goal.”