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Conference highlights importance of sport

Samuel Schmid said sport's importance goes beyond results

(Keystone)

A conference in western Switzerland is focusing on the importance of sport for development, as the United Nations International Year of Sport comes to an end.

The Swiss president, Samuel Schmid, greeted around 400 delegates from the worlds of sport, politics, business and science on Sunday to the conference, which is taking place near Biel.

The meeting is organised by the United Nations special adviser on sport for development and peace, Adolf Ogi, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

"The projects that have taken place during the International Year of Sport have shown how important sport is for health, education and peace," said Schmid.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told delegates that sport was "an important part of our lives".

According to Ogi, the conference has generated widespread interest. The organisers have managed to attract representatives from 69 countries, including sports personalities such as tennis player Boris Becker.

"This summit should allow us to gather our forces and incite delegates to contribute towards common goals," said Ogi.

He added that after an initial phase aimed at motivating and persuading people, it would then be time to launch projects.

Symbolic

"This is a symbolic conference that marks the completion of the information and communication phase," the former Swiss cabinet minister told swissinfo ahead of the start of the meeting. "Now we must start implementing our ideas and our projects."

Ogi hopes next year's World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos will be the starting point for these projects.

He believes major sporting events such as the 2006 World Cup football tournament in Germany or the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing will be ideal platforms to spread the message about sport's role in promoting development aid and peace.

Two documents will be presented at the end of the conference. Both will be part of the final report on the Year of Sport that Ogi will submit to the UN General Assembly in the spring.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The 2nd Magglingen Conference on Sport and Development runs from December 4-6.
Around 400 participants from 60 countries are expected.
They include former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker and four-time Olympic speed skating gold medallist Johann Olav Koss.

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In brief

The three-day meeting is a follow-up to the International Conference on Sport and Development that took place in Magglingen in February 2003.

At that conference, delegates adopted the Magglingen Declaration that today serves as a global guideline for sport and development activities.

The event is being sponsored by the UN, the Federal Sport Office and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

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