By Tom Lloyd, Bujumbura, Burundi – 15 August 2017: The 8th edition of the Friendship Games, organised by Peace and Sport in partnership with the National Olympic Committee of Burundi, concluded after a weekend full of sport, learning and intercultural dialogue in Bujumbura, Burundi last week.
The event brought together 200 children from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo to celebrate the role sport can play in initiating social change. Nine International Federations joined Champions for Peace, French Paralympian Jean Baptiste Alaize, taekwondo star Pascal Gentil, and former French National Rugby Team captain Jean-François Tordo to help encourage better inter-cultural dialogue in the Great Lakes region.
Across the three days of sport, workshops and exchanges, children and athletes alike took part in 12 disciplines, all of which were designed around the concept of ‘Sport Simple’. Sport Simple is a concept that sees sporting practice areas, equipment and rules adapted to resources, environment and aims to promote a ‘sport for all’ approach.
Boxing demonstrations were held on a Sport Simple boxing ring, handmade with old tires, rope and foam, while elsewhere an exclusive demonstration of Street Baseball was proposed by the World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC), which sees the sport played with equipment found in day-to-day life.
As a tangible legacy of their involvement, the WSBC and the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) organised seminars to help train Burundi coaches on how to get the best of the resources given. These coaches will then replicate those teachings around the country in order to share their experience.
The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) held an exhibition alongside Congolese junior side Promo Jeune Basket (BPB) and the Burundian national team, while the World Karate Federation (WKF) provided lessons and equipment to hold multiple workshops throughout the two days.
Through interactive conversation, self-esteem building and conflict resolution exercises, and storytelling, Champion for Peace Pascal Gentil and Jean-Baptiste Alaize led a Peace Workshop in front of 60 children. Jean-Baptiste Alaize, spoke of his experiences as a child in war torn Burundi and the injuries he sustained there which propelled him towards his Paralympic career.
The full list of involved International Federations are as follows:
· International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)
· International Basketball Federation (FIBA)
· International Boxing Association (AIBA)
· International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB)
· International Judo Federation (IJF)
· International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF)
· International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)
· World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC)
· World Karate Federation (WKF)
The Friendship Games are organised annually by Peace and Sport and the respective host country’s National Olympic Committee, on this occasion Burundi. Peace and Sport currently helps to support six sports centres within the African Great Lakes region, all of which gather during the Friendship Games and use sport to promote social inclusion, education, and inter-ethnic dialogue.
Peace and Sport Founder and President, Joël Bouzou, added:
“It is amazing to see all these International Federations come out in support of the Friendship Games, and to see them all engage in the peace through sport process. I warmly invite more international federations and athletes to join us for the next edition.
“This year’s Friendship Games has been a great success, and one that I hope has changed the lives of many. The Games are the very practical demonstration that Sport Simple can transform basic materials found in local environments to make sports equipment out of waste and recycled products. It is about adapting the rules of sport so that they fit to any local conditions.
For instance, we showed how Street Baseball is a simple, cheap and accessible sport that can be easily play by youngsters from disadvantaged communities.”
FIBA Secretary General, Patrick Baumann, said:
“We are very happy to be part of the 2017 Friendship Games. Our Foundation’s mission is to use the power of sport as a catalyst to initiate positive changes and help build stronger communities which we believe this event embodies.”
WBSC President, Riccardo Fraccari, added:
“WBSC is honoured to have baseball as a part of the Friendship Games. Baseball has a great history of breaking down barriers while serving as a common language spoken among many nations. WBSC takes very seriously our social responsibility and we thank Peace and Sport for making our sport a part of the Friendship Games.
“These Games set a great example of how sport is a powerful tool for bridging communities, creating a better global society and celebrating diversity. We look forward to participating in the next edition.”
WKF President, Antonio Espinós, said:
“The WKF is driven to putting the traditional values of Karate into action to drive a change in society through sport.
“We are honoured to be part of this event and we would like to thank Peace & Sport for the shared goal of using the power of sports to build a brighter future for youngsters around the world.”