"The practice of sport is a human
right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising
sport in accordance with his or her needs."
The Olympic Charter, Principle 8.
||Background Information on the Global Themes
a human right? In the strict sense, the answer is no! None of
the human rights declarations or covenants contain specific provisions
formulating the human right to the practice or to access to sport.
However, sport can be seen as an essential element of the rights
both to education and to culture.
The right to education is given in Article 26 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and Article 13 of the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It states "education
shall be directed to the full development of the human personality
and the sense of its dignity and shall strengthen the respect
for human rights and fundamental freedoms". Through sport
people develop physically and intellectually. Participation in
sports raises self-esteem; it provides opportunities for self-realisation
and respect from others. This is especially so for disabled people
through events like the paralympics.
|The Paralympic Games
The Paralympic Games are an
athletic competition for people with disabilities, including
amputees, people with impaired vision, paraplegics and people
with cerebral palsy. "The Paralympic Games originated
in 1948 at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, England.
(...) Beginning in 1952 the Paralympics were staged in Olympic
years. The Winter Paralympics were first held in 1976. In
1992 in Barcelona, Spain, 3 500 athletes from 82 nations
competed at the Summer Paralympics. The first true parallel
with the Olympic Games took place in 1988 in Seoul, South
Korea, where the athletes had a Paralympic village and used
Olympic sites for competition. (...) The Paralympics are
recognised and supported by the International Olympic Committee
(IOC) and governed by the International Paralympic Committee
As for children, the Convention
on the Rights of the Child stipulates that the education of the
child shall be directed to "... the development of the child's
personality, talents and mental and
physical abilities to their fullest potential" and Article 31 refers to
the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational
activities appropriate to the age of the child.
The right of everyone to take part in cultural life is given
in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
and in Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic Social
and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Sports of all kinds are enjoyed
everywhere - soccer, swimming, darts, chess, tossing the caber,
sumo wrestling, American football - whatever! Sport is undoubtedly
an important part of cultural life in all countries and it can
therefore be argued that everyone has a right to enjoy sport as
a spectator, competitor or player.
Although sport is not generally recognised as a human right,
the practice of sport and the way it is supported do have implications
for human rights. In different circumstances, it may be used as
a tool to promote human rights or even to abuse them. Sports promote
Participation in sport generates shared interests and values
and teaches social skills that are necessary for democratic citizenship48.
Sport enhances social and cultural life by bringing together individuals
and communities. Local or national teams are often multinational
or multi-religious, and spectators also come from various backgrounds.
Thus, sport helps to overcome difference and encourages dialogue,
and thereby helps to breakdown prejudice, stereotypes, cultural
differences, ignorance, intolerance and discrimination.
|Open Fun Football Schools
Open Fun Football Schools
is a humanitarian and non-profit consortium founded by two
Danish NGOs, the Cross Cultures Project Association (CCPA)
and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). The context is a public
sport culture characterised by a strong local focus, democratic
principles, volunteerism, parental support and the basic
principle of "sports for all". The wish is to
empower the clubs by distributing sport equipment to all
football clubs participating in the programme. It is also
an incentive to the schools to open up their clubs to all
children and young people regardless of skill, gender or
ethnic or social background.
During the past two years, Open
Fun Football Schools have implemented 15 Open Street Events.
These are little `playsports' festivals open to all children.
They last three to five hours and are mainly used as an
"opener" or "appetiser" in very difficult
locations. For example, in 1999 a Street Sports programme
in Kosovo established a network of 140 so-called streetmasters
- youngsters aged between 14 and 18 - who organise street
sports on a day-to-day basis for the children living in
their neighbourhood. They estimate that approximately 6000
children of all ages took part in their programme, most
of them on a daily basis.49
In relation to discrimination against women, the very fact that women can practice
so-called "men's sports" like football or weight-lifting,
encourages the elimination of various stereotypes about women's
roles and the differences between men and women.
The status of sports personalities is such that they are often
chosen to be "goodwill ambassadors" to promote humanitarian
work through informal education. For example, Ronaldo, the Brazilian
football star, is a special representative for the "Force
for Change: World AIDS Campaign with Young People".
Human rights can also be abused through sports
The use of performance enhancing drugs is probably the most
well known abuse of human dignity and health. There are also controversial
issues of hormone treatment and sex-testing of women athletes
that have to do with respect, human dignity and the right to privacy.
Sponsors can exploit sportsmen and women, and ambitious parents
can exploit children who demonstrate precocious ability. Intensive
training and pressure to compete can lead to sports injuries and
be a risk to mental well-being. Everyone has the right to know
the potential risks and attractions of reaching high levels of
a sport or child abuse?"
Until recently Alexandra Huci,
aged 12, was just one of many talented young girls who spend
their young lives in training camps and dream of becoming
world champions when they grow up. One day while training,
she suddenly collapsed, fell into a coma and died five days
later. Her tiny body could simply take no more.
Diets and physical exertion
have very often caused young gymnasts more suffering than
joy. "Pain has been part of my life ever since I started
training", said 10-year-old Wang Shuo in a recent interview
for CNN at the Beijing training camp, where children start
their "careers" at the age of three. Maria Pardo,
a Spanish gymnast weighed 43 kilograms and is 170 cm tall..50
Sporting opportunities are not always inclusive and there may be elements of
discrimination against religious or cultural minorities in access
to sports facilities. Commercial pressures and interests may be
linked with human rights abuses that undermine dignity and respect
for others. For instance, some players accept bribes to commit
"professional fouls" in soccer and to fix matches in
cricket. There are other issues of human rights abuses associated
with the globalisation of the sporting goods industry. In many
countries, both national and local sports associations have developed
policies about the labour standards demanded of producers of the
equipment and clothes they use. There are campaigns, for example,
the Clean Clothes Campaign in Europe, which aim to get manufacturers
to respect the human rights of their workers. The Sports Shoes
Campaign in North America campaigns, amongst other things, to
get sports people such as Tiger Woods and André Agassi
to stop promoting products made with exploited labour.51
Sport and politics
Sport has long been used as a peaceful means of political action
against injustice. In the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City, John
Carlos and Tommie Smith gave the Black Panther salute during the
victory ceremony to protest against discrimination against black
people in the United States of America. During the apartheid era,
many countries refused to have sporting relations with South Africa,
which made a significant contribution to political change in that
In the sixteenth century,
Angolan slaves in Brazil kept alive their traditional dances
and rituals and developed them into "capoeira",
an art of self-defence. The slave-masters forbade any kind
of martial art, but the slaves were able to train using
the guise of an innocent-looking recreational dance. In
the seventeenth century the art of "capoeira"
was further perfected and then used in a decade-long fight
for freedom against the colonial oppressors.
Sport may also be misused for nationalistic or political purposes. For instance,
at the 1972 Munich Olympic games, eight Arab terrorists invaded
the Israeli team headquarters, killing two people. A further nine
hostages were murdered after a failed rescue attempt by German
The Olympic games have long been used as a forum for nations
to make political statements. For example, the United States of
America together with 65 other non-communist nations
boycotted the Moscow games of 1980 because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The Soviet Union and fifteen of its allies then boycotted the
next games in Los Angeles in 1984 for security reasons and fears
of political asylum being sought and given.
Should sport and politics be mixed?
Whether it was right that China was chosen to host the Olympic
games in 2008 is debatable. China has long been criticised for
its lack of democracy and for human rights abuses. Some of the
arguments given for not blocking Beijing's bid were that China's
handling of dissidents and other human rights abuses would anyway
continue to be criticised in fora such as the annual gathering
of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Indeed, allowing
the Olympic bid to go ahead might even make Beijing take more
note of such condemnation.
Sport and racism
Racism in sport is not a phenomenon confined to football grounds,
nor is it confined just to players of colour. It can affect all
sports and can manifest itself at several levels; in amateur sport
and at institutional and international levels, as well as in the
media. It can occur at local level particularly, but not exclusively,
in the interaction (for real or imagined reasons of colour, religion,
nationality or ethnic origin) between or against players, teams,
coaches and spectators and also against referees. It can include
the abuse of teams or even whole groups.
The responsibility for combating racism in sport falls on everyone,
to public authorities (the legislative authority, the courts,
the police, governmental bodies responsible for sport and local
authorities) and non-governmental organisations (professional
and amateur national sports associations, clubs, local sports
associations, supporters' clubs, players' organisations, anti-racist
associations and so on).
What can you in your school or club do to ensure that the sports
you play are socially inclusive and promote human rights?
21 September 2001. SK Rapid
Vienna striker Gaston Taument sustained continuous racist
chanting during yesterday's UEFA cup match against FK Partizan
in Belgrade. Gaston Taument, who earned 15 caps for the
Dutch national team and is of Surinamese origin - said earlier
in an interview: "If racist incidents occur..., it
is wrong to remain silent on racism."52
Racist behaviour at football matches provides an excellent topic for debate about
the dilemmas in implementing human rights.
Should a suspected hooligan be banned from travelling to another
country to attend a match? Is this an infringement of their right
to freedom of movement?
Youth and sport
One example of how young people are working for human rights
is through "Football against Racism in Europe". FARE
fights through football all forms of discrimination in football:
in the stadium, on the pitch, in the changing-room, at the training
ground, in the office and classroom; by fans, players, managers,
coaches, administrators or educators.
In relation to the Sports Shoes Campaign described above, student
groups across the United States of America are turning sports
sponsorship on its head and demanding that companies adhere to
a Code of Conduct or lose the contract to kit out their college
The work of the Council of Europe
The Directorate of Youth and Sport is a part of the Directorate
General for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport and Environment.
It elaborates guidelines, programmes and legal instruments for
the development of coherent and effective youth policies at local,
national and European levels. It provides funding and educational
support for international youth activities aimed at the promotion
of youth citizenship, youth mobility and the value of human rights,
democracy and cultural pluralism.
The Council of Europe Committee for the Development of Sport
(CDDS) has initiated various activities to promote healthy lifestyles
and participation in sport, for example, EUROFIT, (personal fitness
tests for both children and adults). There is the Anti-Doping
Convention of 1989 and the "Clean Sports Guide", an
education and information pack for schools and sports organisations
produced in co-operation with the European Union53.
In 1986 The European Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehaviour
at Sports Events was developed.
International instruments and international
days related to sports
- The 1975 European Charter of Sport for All. Article 1 proclaims
the right of everyone to practice sport.
- The 1975 European Charter of Sport and Code of Ethics provides
that access to sports installations and to sports activities
be assured without any discrimination.
- The 1978 International Charter of Physical Education and
Sport, Article 1: "Every human being has a fundamental
right of access to physical education and sport, which are essential
for the full development of their personality".
- The 1979 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The importance of
non-discrimination against women in sport is strongly emphasised.
States have the obligation to ensure women's right to participate
in recreational activities, sport and all aspects of cultural
- The 1985 International Convention against Apartheid in Sports.
- The International Day of Disabled Persons, December 3.
- World No-Tobacco Day, May 31 and World Health Day, April