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Ogi sees hope beyond Istanbul violence


Sport can still promote peace despite the violence at the football match between Switzerland and Turkey, United Nations special adviser Adolf Ogi tells swissinfo.

The former Swiss president, who heads the UN’s Sport for Development and Peace Office in Geneva, believes sport has a more positive side than what was seen in Istanbul.

Players and officials traded kicks and blows on the pitch and in the tunnel after Switzerland qualified on Wednesday for next year’s World Cup in a dramatic match.

But Ogi rejects suggestions that these events, and ugly scenes at a UN-sponsored match in Geneva between England and Argentina last weekend, have damaged the UN International Year of Sport and Physical Education.

swissinfo: What did you make of the events in Istanbul on Wednesday?

Adolf Ogi: What happened in Turkey gave the wrong impression. It was bad for sport and had nothing to do with our will to promote sport as a tool for tolerance, respect and fair play.

But the world is not perfect. If the world were perfect then we would not need to be doing this. Our work is even more important after what happened in Turkey. We must not let this stop us.

swissinfo: What impact could these events have on the younger generation who were watching?

A.O.: We have to focus on the younger generation and teach them self-control. We want to educate them to win and lose with good grace, play sport with discipline, accept the decisions of the referee and respect the rules.

Youngsters are more intelligent than we sometimes think. If Fifa [football’s world governing body] punishes those involved in this sad situation then youngsters should know not to conduct themselves this way.

swissinfo: The UN-organised football match between England and Argentina in Geneva last weekend was also marred by some bad scenes…

A.O.: The game was organised to promote peace and goodwill between two countries that have had a difficult history. I have not seen the official report or seen pictures of such scenes so it is difficult for me to comment.

But I was present at the stadium. The match was great and showed the beauty of football.

swissinfo: Have the events surrounding these two matches damaged the reputation of the International Year of Sport and Physical Education?

A.O.: I don’t think so. It is important not to look only at the negative stories. There have been thousands of events in the past year that have successfully promoted friendship, respect and tolerance.

People only see the tip of the iceberg, and it is shining negatively at the moment with money problems, doping and violence in sport.

But there is also a positive side and a lot of goodwill in sport. It is important to note that the game in Istanbul brought a lot of joy to a lot of Swiss people.

swissinfo: How can sport be used as a positive influence in the world?

A.O.: The International Year of Sport and Physical Education proclaimed by the United Nations has been quite successful in this respect. We have seen many countries organising thousands of actions and we have staged successful conferences around the world.

Furthermore, we have been tackling the problems of obesity and lack of exercise. Sport is a solution for these problems.

We desperately need a better world. Politicians have not achieved this, so we need a new vehicle – and that is sport. The UN recently adopted a new resolution underlining the importance of sport in the UN efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

swissinfo-interview: Matt Allen

Several players and officials scuffled after Switzerland’s match against Turkey in Istanbul on Wednesday. Swiss player Stephane Grichting was hospitalised as a result.
Saturday’s match between England and Argentina, organised by the UN to promote goodwill between the two countries, was also marred by accusations of bad behaviour by some players and fans.
The UN International Year of Sport and Physical Education will come to a conclusion next month.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR