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Sports for social development

Carole Beckford, Contributor

When we think about a social programme, reference can be made to a group that at some point will try to secure itself a privileged position over another. Experts refer to that as social exclusion. My argument today will focus on social inclusion.

One activity that has the greatest potential to create social inclusion is sports. Sports unify people of all races, colour, creed and political persuasion (or it should) as in the thrill of victory all celebrate; or even in the agony of defeat all mourn the loss from varied perspectives.

Let's take the recent West Indies' performance in the ICC CWC 2007 ... every man, woman, boy and girl had something to say and even more when Brian Lara confirmed his intention to resign from international cricket. Tackling sports and its contribution to social and community development is both a local and national challenge and the Jamaican government has shown its commitment with the formation of the Social Development Commission and the Institute of Sport.

However, we still have to ensure that the systems support the needs of the people in their respective communities.

The people of Jamaica suffer from a combination of social issues, such as: unemployment, poor skills, low income, crime, bad health and family breakdown; so the solution has to be, how can we tackle the links that all these social issues cause or create?

So apart from Government's policy which should regulate; communities must get together to maximise on the impact that sport can create by allowing competitions at all levels in schools, churches, colleges, universities and of course on a national and international level.

Make no mistake, some of this happens now, but there needs to be a greater concentration of efforts to value diversity which exist in all communities, support local commitment, support partnerships and to work towards sustainability of a programme for long term benefits.

The British government has been successful in a programme they call Neighbourhood Renewal, where they have successfully merged the services of sporting organisations and communities using sport as a developmental tool. So, as we encourage the increase in physical activities, physical education in schools and greater participation in community activities, let us see this as a way to make our communities healthier.

This article is likely to spark a debate on what the real issues are, but I am convinced that well run programmes aimed at making sport and organized physical available to all, is the answer to a lot of our social ills.

Note: Keep your eyes open for a book, which is scheduled for a June 2007 launch entitled: Keeping Jamaica's Sport on Track. The book will look at providing a guideline to ways in which Jamaica can maintain its vision as a sporting nation.

Feedback: I thank those who have sent me emails. Please see comment made by a reader in last week's issue of Hospitality Jamaica

From: oliverlotha@hotmail.com

... No longer an "emerging" segment of world tourism. I think it may even be nearing its peak, but your article is dead on. The "new" trend is for American sports leagues to hold regular scheduled games (i.e not warm ups) outside of the USA. Last year, the NFL had San Fransisco 49ERS playing Arizona Cardinals and next season London (yes the U.K.) will be hosting two scheduled games. With the Trelawny Stadium, what an opportunity?


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