(Photo: FIH)

 

 When Australia face New Zealand or England face Germany at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup, years of sporting rivalry will have preceded the matches. But this is hockey, where the rivalry is good natured and the banter between both players and spectators will be lively but humorous. 

The power of sport as a tool for bringing about social change, cultural understanding and peace between nations has long been understood by people within the sporting community. A core value at the heart of the Olympic Movement, symbolised by the release of doves at the opening ceremony, is peace among nations, but only in the past two years has a movement existed that is dedicated to celebrating the role of sport in promoting peace.

This is the second year that the world is celebrating The International Day of Sport for the Development of Peace (IDSDP) – a slightly unwieldy title for a worthy idea. The IDSDP is an initiative promoted by the United Nations’ (UN) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and it asks all sports organisations across the globe to recognise the power of sport in promoting peace and erasing cultural barriers worldwide. 

The UN and the IOC nominated 6 April as the date that the International Day of Sport for the Development of Peace would be celebrated because it coincides with the day the first modern Olympic Games opened in Athens in 1906.

Like the IDSDP, the Olympic Games movement has a commitment to using sport as a tool for social change, seeing sporting events, such as the Hockey World Cup, the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games, as opportunities to bridge cultural understanding and improve education, health, economic and social development. 

Fitri Saari, one of the Malaysian players who will be starring at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup in the Hague, certainly believes in the power of sport to do good. "Sport can bring a community together like nothing else," he said. When the national team is playing in an event such as the Hockey World Cup or an athlete is participating at the Olympics, then the whole country is united in a common bond."

And Ramon Alegre, who has represented Spain at three Olympic Games and has more than 240 caps for his country, is equally impressed by the importance of sport in people's lives. "When someone belongs to a team they learn many qualities. They learn self confidence, how to work as a team and how to motivate their team mates, but they also learn to be humble and respect each other… and to respect the opposition."

Fitri added: "Travelling and playing for your national team gives you the opportunity to experience what it is like to live in a different country and a different culture. That helps you understand the world a little better."

While the crowds of spectators at the Hockey World Cup will be passionately supporting their teams, the event is also a great showcase for the power of sport to bring people from all nationalities together in a happy, competitive but friendly environment.