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Olympic legend still loves sport’s value to society

Copyrights: 2018 Laureus World Sports Awards.

Olympic legend still loves sport’s value to society

Despite his frustrations over the way modern sport is administrated, Daley Thompson remains resolute in his belief about the power of sport to change society.

Britain’s double Olympic champion, who won gold at Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984, was one of the founding members of the ‘Laureus World Sports Academy’, an exclusive group of more than 60 sporting legends co-ordinated by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

This week Thompson joined fellow Academy members, including ex Australia cricket captain Steve Waugh, former Paralympic champion Tanni Grey-Thompson and New Zealand rugby union legend Sean Fitzpatrick, at the Laureus Global Summit in Paris in partnership with Allianz, where 130 programmes from across the globe – all using sport and physical activity to support young people in the greatest need – gathered to share best practice.

When asked about some of the issues associated with modern sport, Thompson told “There’s not many things in society which don’t have problems, but the essence of sport is a utopian idea.

Sport has so much going for it in terms of what it can do for people, and how it can bring people together. Along with fire and the wheel it’s one of the best ideas man has ever invented!

Someone said to me recently that there are tens of millions of kids out there that need help… are you really making a difference?

I said why not ask the tens of thousands of kids who we are helping? You can only deal with one kid at a time, and we don’t have the resource but we’re doing the best we can.”

The gathering of practitioners in Paris is one of the largest of its kind in the sport for development sector, an industry which remains dedicated to proving and demonstrating Nelson Mandela’s famous declaration that “Sport has the power to change the world”.

Thompson, 60, was present when the former South African president made the statement at the Laureus Sports Awards in Monaco 18 years ago.

He said: “I was one of the very first (Academy members) and I think the only reason I was invited was because I knew most of the people that they wanted to get involved!

This is the best thing I do all year because I get to spend time with some of the people I look up to. Some of the people, who I didn’t even know before I joined (the Academy), have turned out to be unbelievable human beings, not just sports people.

They have all the traits of the type of person that I would like to think I could become. It’s so nice to have accumulated a new bunch of mentors – at my age!

In the past Thompson has been critical of the way elite sport has been run, and he remains sceptical over whether sport’s administrators will ever fully comprehend, or harness, the full value to society which is being created by the myriad of grassroots actors within sport for development.

He said: “I’m not sure there is the will from those kind of people, they are happy with their blazers. And when they go, they are usually just replaced by similar people five years younger. I think it would be wrong to assume that people in those positions would be up for doing this kind of thing.

I think the question we are asking is could they do more, and do it sustainably, and I think the answer to both those questions is yes, of course they could.”


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Simon Lansley


Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - 14:45