Overcoming Hurdles Through Sport

On Monday, October 27th, a panel was held entitled "Overcoming Hurdles through Sport".
The session was moderated by Israeli journalist Ofer Shelach, and the panelists
Included: Joseph Blatter, President of FIFA; Ramon Calderon, President of Real
Madrid F.C.; Issa Rishmawi, President of the Palestinian Tennis Federation; Alex
Gilady, Member of IOC and Coordination Committee of Olympics, Vice President ofNBC Sports; Dame Tanni Grey Thompson, Paralmypic gold medalist and Vice-Chair of Laureus World Sport Academy; Don King, boxing promoter; Edwin Moses, Olympic gold medalist, and Chairman of Laureus World Sport Academy; and Jason McCartney, former AFL player and victim of Bali bombing 2002.
Mr. Shelach began by saying that "sport is the toy department of life, and the most prominent past-time of the globalized world." He said that in the past, wars have even been halted during the Olympic Games. The main question of today is "How can we use sport to assuage broader conflicts? How can the international community help to mediate between rivals using the powerful tool of sport?"

Next, Gal Peleg, Director of the Peres Center's Sport Department, spoke about the unique partnership between the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the Peres Center, specifically in regard to the Peres Center's "Twinned Peace Basketball Schools" program for girls. He then introduced Ned Wills, Director of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, who was presented with an award by two young Palestinian and Israeli participants of the Peres Center's program.
A short film on the Peres Center's sport programs was then screened, followed by the discussion.

Joseph Blatter spoke first, and was asked, "What contribution can football make
toward harnessing social change?" His response was that football is the most popular team sport in the world, teaching billions of people respect, fair play, and the concept of winning and losing. He went on to say that football brings people together, and it has an integration value, as in playing a game, you forget everything around you.
Football allows you to feel and explore wonderful emotions, and he said that he sees happiness on the faces of children who play sport.
The next speaker was President of Real Madrid F.C. Mr. Ramon Calderon, who was asked about the Real Madrid Foundation. He answered that the Foundation has 7 schools throughout Africa and other areas, and today, they will be opening schools in Israel and the Palestinian Authority through the Peres Center's "Twinned Peace Sport Schools" program. Sport values, he said, are very important to build a better life for the children, and the Foundation's programs have an educational element, working mainly with disadvantaged communities.

Next, Issa Rishmawi was asked how one can play tennis under the present conditions in the Palestinian Authority. He said that tennis is actually very new in the Palestinian Authority, and it is hard to start up because they lack the necessary infrastructure. As such, he proposed to start teaching tennis in schools in order to reach the youth.
Next, Alex Gilady discussed the Olympic's involvement in peacebuilding, suggesting that there have been some very powerful elements achieved by sport over the years: It is the only arena where China and Taiwan play together; and to have Palestine marching into the stadium in Atlanta in 1996 was the welcoming of Palestine into the family of nations. He said that the Peres Center's work in bringing Palestinian and Israeli kids together is very important work, and that such work must continue. A main advantage of sport is that government does not interfere in sport, so NGOs have a lot of power to develop sport peacebuilding programs.
Dame Tanni Grey Thompson next spoke about being a disabled athlete, saying that sport changed her life, calmed her down, taught her to challenge herself, and also taught her to grow emotionally and physically. “It's also about having fun” she suggested. She said that youngsters who play sport learn to read and write much quicker, as well. Overall, she promoted sport in terms of personal development and growth.

Don King was the next speaker; he talked about the importance of sport in terms of positive social change. He said that sport can and does make a real difference, and the Peres Center is proof of that. Mr. King also discussed the fact that sport can open new doors and knock down barriers and that sport has made one of the most profound impacts in regard to seeing people as your equals.
Next, Edwin Moses spoke, talking about the power of sport to teach kids real values and stimulate necessary change in the world. He discussed his involvement with the Laureus Sports Academy and his gratitude for being able to serve as a role model to children around the world.
Jason McCartney was the last panelist to speak. He shared his experience as a victim of the 2002 Bali bombing and how his career in AFL enabled him to survive a long and painful recovery process. Through sport, he was taught the values of self discipline, teamwork, believing in yourself, testing your limits and refusing defeat.
His motto is, "It's not what you're dealt in life, it's how you deal with life that really
matters." He used sport to re-build his life and he stressed the value of sport in terms of good physical health, diversion from high-risk behaviour, multi-cultural integration and more.
General questions were then asked, and the session concluded with two young boys from the Peres Center's "Twinned Peace Sport Schools" program expressing their gratitude for the amazing opportunities that they have been given through their participation in sport.