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Upcoming Commonwealth games will inspire, empower citizens

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Kigali (Rwanda), June 24 (IANS) The upcoming Commonwealth Games will inspire and empower all Commonwealth citizens, in turn helping to boost development and health outcomes following the Covid-19 pandemic, ministers and sport sector representatives have said.

Over 120 Commonwealth sports and health ministers, sports industry professionals and stakeholders from bodies like UNESCO, the Commonwealth Advisory Body on Sport (CABOS), the Olympic movement and FIFA came together for a roundtable breakfast in Kigali on Thursday — ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on Saturday.

Birmingham 2022 (starting in just over a month’s time on July 28) was hailed as an opportunity to leverage the power and popularity of sport to drive social change, promote sustainable development and improve global health outcomes following the pandemic.

Speaking at the opening of the event, Arjoon Suddhoo, Deputy Secretary-General, Office of the Secretary-General said: “Sport serves as a major catalyst for inclusive development for all 2.6 billion Commonwealth citizens, 60 per cent of whom are young people under the age of 30.

“Beyond its convening power, sport is also an important tool for ensuring that the social and health gains made prior to the Covid-19 pandemic are restored and accelerated. This is what the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK, represent.”

“The Games speak to the resilient and inspiring nature of sport, they showcase how we are finding ways to re-energise the sector, whilst reminding us of our collective heritage, embedded within our shared Commonwealth values.”

He was echoed by Lord Ahmad Tariq, Minister for Foreign Commonwealth and Development Affairs, who shared the UK government’s vision for the Games and its legacy.

He said: “Big sporting events like the Commonwealth Games are an opportunity to see world-class sportspeople in action.”

“The UK has a brilliant track record for hosting events like this — from the London 2012 Olympics to the 2014 Games back in Glasgow. And, every time we do, we’re reminded of the sheer power of sport and its impact on communities. From positive memories of sporting achievements, to employment opportunities and images of children learning to swim, young people representing a local athletics club and communities coming together to get active.”

The roundtable heard how the inspiring example of the Games, and the athletes taking part, should be used to galvanise support from a broad spectrum of leaders for development ambitions across the Commonwealth — particularly when ministers come together at the accompanying 10th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting in Birmingham on July 27.

The theme of the Games will be “Creating an inclusive and resilient sport sector; enhancing the contribution of sport to the Sustainable Development Goals” and will see ministers agreeing and setting sport-related goals for the Commonwealth.

Participants in the roundtable noted the importance of maintaining a collaborative Commonwealth approach and building partnerships between stakeholders and governments to fully realise the potential of sport as a development tool that — especially as member states explore policy options in the post-Covid context.

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