The session’s presentations are brought together but an interest into and relevancy to promotion of education and healthy life-styles through sport.
Frankie Fredericks, surgeon Chairman of the IOCs Athletes’ Commission, had the keynote address. He shared a lot of his personal experiences stressing the importance of sport as a “school for friendship, solidarity, fair-play”.
VANOC CEO, John Furlong continues the session with his presentation about VANOC’s 2010 way of reaching youth by reaching them online through the classroom – the programme offers teachers with lesson plans and gives children a change to engage directly with the Olympic Games and share the Olympic Dream. Olympic Athletes join the classrooms and gyms as well inspiring youth. I remember hearing about these initiatives two years ago when at the National Olympic Academy organized by the British Academy in London and found them then, as now, as a new approach to a traditional method of bringing youth to engage with sports by mediating their contact with Olympic heroes. He now brought the example of the Olympic Torch Relay which will cover 45,000 km in Canada next year. Coca-Cola and Royal Bank are sponsors of parts of the relay. To be part of it, young people are encouraged to have a healthy life-style (Coca-Cola) by joining their programme and join volunteer causes (Royal Bank). It is a great CSR initiative related to the Torch Relay and it makes me wonder whether similar actions (either involving a healthy life-style promotion or something else) were done at previous Games editions and Torch Relays.
Dr Timothy Armstrong, from the Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion of the World Health Organization (WHO) follows. He’s speaking about physical activity for health – current trends among youth. According to data from WHO an alarming percent of youth do not engage in sporting activities. Therefore, non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are more prone to happen in lack of physical activities. According to him, Europe is leading the charts with an amazing percentage of NCDs but even Africa, and especially the urban African areas, are deeply affected. Furthermore, he says that by 2015, not very far from today, it is estimated that 65% of the world population will be obese.
He continues with a 6 steps NCD action plan, objective 3 being for example to introduce transport policies that promote active and safe methods of travelling to and from schools and workplaces such as walking or cycling. Bogota has done something in that direction, mainly with tourists in mind, but it had a positive impact on the whole city. This reminds me of another project I heard of at a conference earlier this year, a social network for people looking for a jogging/trekking/cycling partner. Alastair Thin has more details on the project.
Two more presentations to go. Now Jean-Edouard Baker, President of the Haiti Olympic Committee, speaks about “Sport is the school for life” programme. Presentation is in French. A short movie about the programme is shown. There are 6 sports used in the programme: football, volleyball, judo, taekwondo, tennis and athletics that are backed up in schools by sessions on topics such as sexual education and environmental protection. The programme wants to reach youth both on a qualitative and quantitative level. Mr Baker considers that the programme was successful and that it touched not only the children but also their parents leading to changes in life-style. I do not find the programme idea new but who says that we need something new every time?
Finally, the last presentation of the day is given by Prof. Margaret Talbot, President of the International Council on Sport Sciences and Physical Education. She speaks about “Changing gender norms and stereotypes through sport: successes and challenges”. She started with definitions for sex, gender and stereotype, the latter she says, giving an non-scientific explanation, are closely related to myths and help redefine myths rather than challenging them. I disagree with her stereotype=myth definition but I come from a communication background.
Her example of gender stereotypes and sexualization in governance of sport show two beach, female and male, vollyeball players. Her argument is that the sports uniform enforces a sexist stereotype. She continues to talk about anomalies, a nuisance as she says, for both the rules and fairness in competition. She reminds the audience that much of the rules are based on normalization. She continues with an example from the synchronized swimming in Germany where a boy joined such team. Pre-puberty gender differences she says are far less obvious and that choices are affected by gender as much as by sex.
Her message is powerful. She argues that we’ve done a lot of entitlement up to today but too little about empowerment. She’s suggesting that stating the obvious, that using the values and resources out there, are the best way to start even when it comes to women promotion in sports and the decrease of stereotyping through sport.
Prof. Talbot suggests women think about physical activity while men think about sport. It isn’t clear from her answer whether, in reality, women and men define differently the same activities they undertake.
This concludes the day. I’ll be back tomorrow with other updates from the morning sessions.