MANILA, AUGUST 25, 2011 (STAR) SPORTS FOR ALL By Philip Ella Juico - It’s obvious too many jurisdictional disputes hound sports. And often these issues are related to the fact that resources for sports are finite. Because resources are limited, a system of accreditation has to be devised. Because there is a system of accreditation, it only follows that some sectors will be unaccredited left out and unqualified for government support.

Actually, the impact of such exclusion could be mitigated if sports officials live by the principle that “sport is for all”, i.e. sports is not just for elite athletes competing in the Olympics or Olympic-style competitions and athletic competitions that are training grounds for higher levels of sports.

The International Charter of Physical Education and Sport which was signed by many countries, including the Philippines, at the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at its 20th session on November 21, 1978, embodies the sport for all principle.

The third paragraph of the preamble of the Charter states that “Convinced that one of the essential conditions for the effective exercise of human rights is that everyone should be free to develop and preserve his or her physical, intellectual and moral powers, and that access to physical education and sport should consequently be assured and guaranteed for all human beings.”

The 11th paragraph of the Charter emphasized the egalitarian aspect of sport by stating that the Conference “proclaims this International Charter for the purpose of placing the development of physical education and sport at the service of human progress, promoting their development, and urging governments, competent nongovernmental organizations, educators, families and individuals themselves to be guided thereby, to disseminate it and to put it into practice.”

The title of Article 1 of the Charter states, “The practice of physical education and sport is a fundamental right for all.” Sections one and two of the article says, “Every human being has a fundamental right of access to physical education and sport, which are essential for the full development of his personality. The freedom to develop physical, intellectual and moral powers through physical education and sport must be guaranteed both within the educational system and in other aspects of life.”

Section 2 emphasizes that “everyone must have full opportunities, in accordance with his national tradition of sport, for practicing physical education and sport, developing his physical fitness and attaining a level of achievement in sport which corresponds to his gifts.”

If our sports officials were to take the Charter seriously, perhaps there would be less jurisdictional issues that would arise and become problematic.

The Master Plan for Philippine Sports (1996 – 2000) that the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) put together with the Australian Sports Commission, Australian Institute of Sport and Price–Waterhouse of Australia, during my watch at the PSC, endeavored to breathe life to the Philippine commitment to the Charter.

The first premise on which the Plan was anchored was that Filipinos derive benefits from government support of organized sports programs.

These are: 1. Health – the positive relationship between sport and health is obvious; 2. Social cohesion, harmony, unity and empowerment – sport brings a nation together and is the glue that binds a country. One only has to watch the film “Invictus” to realize how sports can unify a country; 3. Actualization of social justice – equal access to sport and sporting opportunities helps level the playing field and enhances upward social and economic mobility. Sports can therefore be an instrument for peace-building and broader development advocated by the UN, that sport should be an instrument for advancing the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Sports should therefore be made egalitarian; 4. International goodwill – sport is a tool for international diplomacy. Participation in high caliber international elite sports and our outstanding performance in these events raise the prestige and credibility of successful nations.

The ultimate aim therefore of sports development is to facilitate the participation of all Filipinos in sports and wellness activities (which is mainly the task of government), so that the greatest number can be served. With the dynamic assistance of the private sector, government’s role is to provide opportunities for specially gifted and talented athletes, drawn from a mass-based egalitarian sports program, to achieve their maximum potential and excel especially in the international sporting arena.

It is clear that there is a symbiotic relationship between mass-based sports and elite sports. As conventional wisdom points out, it is easier to choose a thousand elite and specially gifted athletes from a million competitors than from a thousand participants.

Our sports leaders would therefore be of better service to the nation and more aligned with the development aspects of sports if there is a conscious effort to be more inclusive and to create a strong link between mass-based and elite sports.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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