Best Practice

Service to Society: Olympians help heal divisions in Colombia

13 | 6 | 2018

Olympians in Colombia are reconciling divisions in their country caused by years of violent conflict by using sport and the Olympic values to help heal communities. Violence was rife in the country as government forces battled for decades with guerrilla movements.

Following the historic peace treaty signed in 2016 the Colombian Olympians Association and the Colombian National Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission have been providing access to sport for children and young people to help them overcome obstacles and develop self-confidence.

These activities are supported by WOA’s Service to Society Grant Programme, which helps enable Olympians to integrate sport into the heart of communities, while uniting young people around the values of the Olympic movement. So far more than 2,000 young people in Colombia have been positively impacted.

In the municipality of Florida, in the Valle del Cauca area, the Colombian Olympians Association ran sessions where Olympians, including Olympic champion Oscar Albeiro Figueroa OLY (Weightlifting) Jonatan "El Momo" Romero OLY (Boxing), Darlenis Obregón OLY (Athletics) and Jacqueline Rentería OLY (Freestyle Wrestling), shared their experiences with local children to encourage peaceful coexistence and help repair the social fabric of the town.

“We wanted to use sport to send out a message of hope against violence,” said Colombian Olympians Association President Mauricio Rivas Nieto OLY. “To give youth in the area, who have been affected by gang, political and drug-related violence, the message that sport can unify communities and help ease social problems. Our Olympians, many of whom grew up in similar situations, can spread that message.”

At the Armed Conflict Victims Unit in Santa Marta, three-time Olympic hurdler and Chair of the Colombia NOC Athletes’ Commission Paulo Villar OLY, joined weightlifter Sergio Rada OLY and up-and-coming triple jumper Arnovis Dalmero, in sharing inspiring stories of how sport changed their lives.

“It has been an incredible experience reaching out and engaging with children in communities that have previously been cut off through armed conflict and understanding the obstacles they have faced in their young lives,” said Villar.

“By allowing them the chance to hear first-hand how the practice of sport can help them to overcome social barriers, poverty and violence and by offering them the chance to engage with Olympians, we hope we can help inspire young people to achieve their potential.”

Service to Society Grants programme

The Service to Society Grants programme was launched by WOA in 2016 to help fund Olympian-led, sustainable community projects that align with the promotion of the Olympic values.  

Six recipients have been awarded 2018 grants in the second round of funding this year. The successful projects from Palau, Japan, Moldova, Cape Verde, Chile and the United States of America will see Olympians across the world work to better society through sport.

Image credit: IOC