You are here

Post-UNOSDP - Is the IOC fool's gold?

Copyrights: Flickr: Quite Adept

Post-UNOSDP - Is the IOC fool's gold?

James Rose, founder of the Kick Project, poses three questions on the future of sport and development under the IOC Commission.

With the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace closed down by the global body, there is undoubtedly a void in this space in which many of us here work.

But, for all the high profile oomph the UNOSDP added to the world of sport for good, its passing need not be seen as devastating.

For one, the work the UNOSDP has already done in its 16 years of life has laid a platform for the development of sport for social justice. While many of us knew for years that sport had a wider purpose beyond mere business or entertainment, the UNOSDP has provided a base of credibility that may have otherwise taken much longer to establish.

While much of the work is, in many ways, still to be done, the UNOSDP has left a positive legacy on which we can all build.

More problematic is the shifting of the UNOSDP’s brief to the IOC.

Obliging the IOC to administer to the peace and development facets of modern sport raises three questions.

Is winning all?

The IOC, despite the glow of the Olympic Oath, is part of the global obsession with equating sport with victory.

The Olympic Games is a case in point. The Games themselves have become centred on medal counts and national pride.

Competitiveness in itself is not, of course, problematic. But, when winning becomes the central goal of sport - to the point where organisations and individuals will cheat to do so - then, well, ‘Houston, we have a problem’.

When this drive becomes the focus of the media as well, the risk is that sport becomes something different to what many of us see it as.

Which sports?

The IOC has a relatively limited range of sports under its wing. Many of these are chosen not based on the ability of these sports to contribute to peace and development, but on marketing and/or political considerations.

As a result, sports which are popular in major markets, say basketball, are included in the Games, while sports which are less known in big markets, say kabaddi, are not.

Many of these sports are traditional or have a long history. Athletics, famously, reaches back to Ancient Greece. This means that many have not been invented or developed with more contemporary visions of social justice issues in mind. Most, for instance, are not designed to cater to different cultural standards of gender participation or for disability.

Grassroots or weeds?

The IOC is very much about elite sport. This is reflected in the fact that medal counts and world records are seen as the major achievements of any Olympic Games. 

Olympic committees in member countries are generally about identifying top level athletes and providing them with the means to compete on the quadrennial Big Show.

Yet, those of us who know and follow sports at the grassroots level understand that elite sports, while often exciting and even inspirational, is not where the future of sport is written.


Article type



Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - 13:34