VIENNA, 19 April 2011 – Sport can play an important role in combating racism, intolerance and discrimination, but also present challenges in the areas of equality and fairness, participants said today at the opening of a two-day OSCE meeting in Vienna.
The meeting, organized by the OSCE’s 2012 Irish Chairmanship and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), brought together representatives of governments and of civil society organizations working to combat discrimination and intolerance from the Organization’s 56 participating States and Partners for Co-operation.
Irish Ambassador Eoin O’Leary, the Chairperson of the OSCE Permanent Council, said that the significant role sport plays in many societies meant that it had the potential to be a positive force in fighting racism and discrimination.
“Sporting events can and do serve as a mechanism to build confidence and mutual understanding, and promote tolerance and respect between different communities,” O’Leary said. “Furthermore, they serve to highlight the important role of sport in promoting integration, equality and tolerance in society at large.”
Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, Director of ODIHR, stressed that sport often acts as an integrating force, providing a common activity around which different groups can unite. “Sport activities, ranging from the local to the national and international levels, and in both the amateur and professional spheres, can support the integration of migrants and persons belonging to minorities into society as a whole,” Lenarčič said.
Keynote speaker Joia Jefferson Nuri, Communications Director at In The Public Eye Communications and a long-standing expert on racism and perceptions of minorities, added that sports offer not only a means for promoting tolerance, but also play an important role in exposing those problems in need of the most attention.
“Sports and sporting figures force us into a truth telling that we can avoid on many other stages,” Jefferson Nuri said. “The grandness of sports and the glaring light we shine on it makes it hard to hide the dirty little secret of racism.”
During the meeting, a group of 20 NGOs put forward a set of recommendations, including calls for national sports associations and fan clubs to develop concrete actions to explicitly condemn acts of intolerance and discrimination in sports, and for States to encourage and support public campaigns allowing sports celebrities to use their fame to promote understanding, fairness and equality.
United States Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney, who spearheaded the introduction of measures to increase minority representation among coaches and general managers in American football, commonly known as the “Rooney Rule”, is scheduled to speak at the meeting’s second day.