Ladies and gentlemen, members of the African Olympic and Sports Movement,
On 23 June 2017, the 54 National Olympic Committees of Africa will, as usual, join other NOCs of the planet to celebrate the 69th Olympic Day. This year’s event is peculiar in that it comes at the dawn of a new Olympiad, one that poses the major challenge of concretising IOC Agenda 2020 in our continent and laying a firm foundation for Olympism across Africa, notably amongst youths who are our constant concern. Besides commemorating the advent of the Olympic Games of modern times, Olympic Day also aims at encouraging people from all walks of life to adopt and maintain a healthy way of life while celebrating the values of excellence, friendship and respect. It developed over the years and has today become the main event that celebrates the Olympic Movement and extols a healthy and active way of life.
Though the Olympic Day Race, instituted by the IOC to encourage all NOCs to celebrate this event and promote mass participation sports has remained the cornerstone of the annual celebration of this event in Africa and the world over, the initial concept has nevertheless evolved. Today, Olympic Day is more than just a mere race and its organisation is predicated on three fundamental pillars: “move, learn and discover.” In Africa, we have for several years now fully understood this philosophy and avail ourselves of this platform to brainstorm a number of issues and especially celebrate Olympism based on the aforementioned pillars.
In Africa, the 2017 edition of Olympic Day has to be a moment of joy and exaltation, a day to share Olympic values. As recommended by IOC, it should be a moment for us to effectively “move, learn and discover.” This trinity should, in many respects, enable the African Olympic Movement to celebrate this year’s day by blending physical exercise and the furtherance of Olympism. The latter is, as defined by the Olympic Charter, “a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind, blending sport with culture and education.”
Move: encouraging people of all ages, their ability notwithstanding, to be in motion on this occasion especially by practising physical activities.
Learn: this may warrant each NOC to reflect on the contribution of sport to major issues of concern to our continent, such as education, health promotion, peace, the fight against hunger and desertification, prevention of HIV and viral hepatitis, empowerment of the woman and the girl child, protection of the environment…
Discover: this must also be at the core of celebrations, given that the event affords an ideal opportunity for us to showcase new sports and activities that are not always in the spotlight in our environment. Africa is often referred to as a ‘football and athletics continent,’ given the popularity of the disciplines and the fact that government leaders view them as privileged. Olympic Day may enable us to help participants discover new sports, which can also fetch us medals just like the two disciplines cited above.
Practically, this Olympic Day in Africa should feature several physical and sporting activities, manual work or cultural workshops, lectures, sports demonstrations and meetings with Olympic athletes. Other events should be organised at the level of Regional Olympic Committees, schools and universities in the remotest communities…
Today, there are National Olympic Academies within NOCs, which are already doing remarkable work and should further help in making Olympic Day a community mobilisation moment celebrated around sports and Olympic values and involving the wider public, licensed athletes, school children and recreational centres such as Olympafrica centres…
As enshrined in the Olympic Charter: “the practice of sport is a human right.” We should thus, on 23 June 2017, provide the opportunity for everyone, without any discrimination, to practise sport and celebrate the values of Olympism. In Africa, which is economically, politically and socially fragile, sport must remain a factor for unity and social reliance which fosters friendship, solidarity and fair play.
Enjoy the celebrations!
Intendant General Lassana Palenfo, President of ANOCA