Judo in refugee camp wins international major prize Dubai

Dubai, Jan 15, 2016: “The prize for creativity by international sports federations will be ‘mostly reinvested‘ into widening judo programmes for young refugees and expanding these programmes where it is needed and where the IJF can support the population‘, said Marius Vizer, president of the International Judo Federation.

The International Judo Federation was presented with the prize today (Thursday) by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Sports Council and Patron of the Awards, in a televised ceremony in Dubai, in the presence of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Awards, inaugurated by the Ruler of Dubai in 2007, were described by Vizer as “an important and welcome stimulus for all sports, especially in the current global context”.

The IJF received the prize “for its efforts in bringing judo and its values to children in the refugee camp in Kilis, Turkey, located right on the border to Syria. It is an area where international organisations hardly go to,” said a citation from the prize-giving jury. The IJF’s Judo for Peace project has made available coaches and equipment to implement the programme which ran almost every week throughout 2015.

President Vizer said: “Taking judo to refugee camps near war-torn Syria and in or near other areas of conflict had brought refugee children ‘a small island of happiness’“. He added: “We need to invest in our children. Sport can change the world and judo can teach young refugees honesty and fearlessness.”

ASOIF (Association of Summer Olympic Federations) President, Francesco Ricci Bitti, who was present in Dubai and accompanied by Executive Director Andrew Ryan, said: “ASOIF compliments the IJF on winning this prestigious award. The programme they have implemented in this refugee camp is exemplary and demonstrates how sport can make a big difference to young people who have been deprived of their homes, daily routine and leisure activities. We’d also like to express our gratitude to H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum for recognising the valuable activities of sports federations in this way.”

The ‘container city’ refugee camp in Kilis hosts about 17,000 Syrian refugees, of which 10,000 are under 15 years old. “Bringing judo into their lives means offering distraction, some meaningful activity and moments of joy and happiness which are rare in the daily lives of young refugees. Judo can teach them values and skills that will be helpful in their future lives,” said the jury in awarding the prize. It added: “The sport has also proved to be successful in building peace and reconciliation among communities.”

Leading the IJF’s ‘Judo for Peace’ programme, Nicolas Messner told the Creative Sports Award audience: “I want to help those children meet their dreams.” He pointed out that judo was invented in 1882 by a young, 22-year-old Japanese Jigoro Kano as an educational tool for young people to develop themselves physically and spiritually. It teaches them the core values of Friendship, Honor, Modesty, Self Control, Sincerity, Courage, Respect and Kindness.”

“It is based on the principle of non-discrimination of any kind, and of maximum efficiency with minimum effort,” Messner said. He then referred to the worldwide scope of the Judo for Peace and development projects – encompassing children among the Eskimos (Inuit people) in the north of Canada, Chinese, Mongolians, and the inhabitants of the Great Lake Region of Africa and of the New Territories in Oceania.

Visiting the camps and joining in with the children learning judo had been an eye-opener,“ he said, When the children had put on the judo uniform it had “transformed them and united them”, Messner added “and it was helping to divert the children’s thinking from the horrors of war and conflict“.

The project for refugees in the Kilis refugee camp, providing primitive accommodation in 20-square metre containers, which has now been extended, had also brought the refugee children in contact with the local Turkish children, helping to overcome suspicions and potential divisions and isolation. Currently around 300 children are taking part in the project on the Turkish-Syrian border. It is planned to extend the initiative within the Kilis refugee camp and also to target other camps in partnership with the Turkish Judo Federation, which has been an efficient partner and actor of the project, with a strong focus on involving more girls, the jury reported.

Vizer Meets with the Egyptian Minister of Sports in Dubai
Following the awarding ceremony in Dubai, Marius Vizer met with Khaled Abdel-Aziz, Minister of Sports of Egypt. Hassan Moustafa, President of the International Handball Federation, was also present during the meeting.

The development opportunities of judo in Egypt was one of the subjects that was discussed during the meeting: “Egypt has a strong history in judo and a great potential to regularly reach the international podium again“ said President Vizer. As the second main subject of the discussion was the possibility to organize big judo events in Egypt, Khaled Abdel-Aziz declared: “My country is ready to organize a major international judo event. If this is the case, we will do everything possible for this event to be a success.“ —- IJF

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