Olympians Champion Sport’s Values at Vatican Conference

13 | 10 | 2016

Olympians joined global thought leaders from sport, religion and business last week to examine how faith and sport can work together to promote positive values, inspire youth and better serve humanity. The inaugural event entitled Sport at the Service of Humanity, took place over three days at the Vatican – it was the first global conference of its kind on faith and sport.

Among the high-level speakers and guests who attended the event with Pope Francis were IOC President Thomas Bach, U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, WOA Patron HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and WOA President Joël Bouzou.

Other Olympians who spoke at the event included Olympic swimming champion and IOC Athletes’ Commission member Kirsty Coventry, Right to Play founder and Olympic speed skating legend Johann Olav Koss, five-time Olympian Charmaine Crooks, double Olympic gold-medallist Kip Keino, who was presented with the first ever Olympic Laurel at the Rio 2016 Closing Ceremony earlier this year, and Tegla Loroupe, triple Olympian and head of the Rio 2016 Refugee Olympic Team.

Topics covered at the conference, organised by the Pontifical Council for Culture the United Nations, and the International Olympic Committee, included the power of sport as inspiration, sport for all and the importance of inclusion and sport for change, looking at the need for all stakeholders in sport to get involved in and support the common goal of social development, unity and understanding through sport.

Speaking at the event Pope Francis said:

“Sport is a human activity of great value, able to enrich people’s lives; it is enjoyed by men and women of every nation, ethnic group and religious belonging. During these last few months, we have seen how the Olympic and Paralympic Games have been at the centre of attention of the whole world. 

“The challenge is that of maintaining the honesty of sport, of protecting it from the manipulations and commercial abuse,” Pope Francis continued. “It would be sad for sport and for humanity if people were unable to trust in the truth of sporting results, or if cynicism and disenchantment were to drown out enthusiasm or joyful and disinterested participation. In sport, as in life, competing for the result is important, but playing well and fairly is even more important!”

WOA President Joël Bouzou added:

“It was an honour to be a part of the first ever event faith and sport forum at the Vatican and to hear the voices of Olympians speaking up and being heard as part of a unified call to protect sport’s values. Sport has the ability to unite people from every faith, nationality and culture and as Olympians we are uniquely placed to support that unity. Through the shared goal of sport for all, we must continue promote sport’s positive values, inspire youth and help make the world a better place through sport and our service to society.”