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Ogi spreads his message in South Africa

Adolf Ogi talks football with youngsters in Kayelitsha township near Cape Town.

(Robert Ruoff)

Former Swiss cabinet minister Adolf Ogi is on a four-day trip to South Africa to promote sport as a tool for development.

The United Nations Special Advisor on Sport for Development and Peace was invited by the South African government. He is giving speeches at workshops, visiting projects in townships and meeting the president, Thabo Mbeki.

"My task is to spread the idea that sport is an excellent instrument which must be used to improve health, education, development and peace," Ogi told swissinfo, before his trip.

"South Africa is organising the football World Cup in four years and that will be a huge platform – not only for South Africa, but for the whole continent. It is very important that they use this platform to show the world Africa's problems: hunger, poverty, illness and others."

Ogi said he would be attending a workshop on Partnership in Peace for Sport and Development in the supreme council of sport in Africa and he would also visit projects in townships.

"I have seen with my own eyes what sport can do for the young generation," he said. "When you ask them what they need, the first thing they say is something to eat – the second is a ball to play with."

Ogi's passion and belief in the project is obvious but he is also aware of the challenges.

"Politically, Africa is slightly forgotten," he said. "We focus on the Middle East, India and Pakistan, Afghanistan – but a lot of problems are in Africa."

Good report

Ogi's visit comes a week after he presented a report on the achievements of the International Year of Sport and Physical Education 2005 to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York.

The report highlights the worldwide achievements and the significant role that sport can play in accelerating progress towards the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

In 2005 thousands of activities were initiated worldwide, including sports events, conferences and projects using sport to further health, education, development and peace.

"During the Year of Sport, out of 191 countries, 122 reported that they were active – that is a success," Ogi said.

The Year of Sport provided a platform for organisations worldwide to demonstrate the power of sport as a tool for peace and development.

Concrete results

Ogi stresses the importance of sustainability and long-term commitment and determination.

"We are not like a helicopter that comes, delivers something and then goes – everything must be concrete. Every project which we launch must be sustainable."

As examples of concrete progress, Ogi cites the Tutsis and the Hutus playing football together and the cricket matches between India and Pakistan – "today relations between the two countries are much better".

"We also had a big success in Brazil where we took children out of the favelas [slums] and gave them the opportunity to play and be looked after medically," he said.

"Using passion and persuasion we have created a momentum that must go on. That is the most important thing."

swissinfo, Thomas Stephens

In brief

Ogi was appointed head of the UN's Sport for Development and Peace Office in the Swiss city of Geneva in 2001.

He was a minister in the Swiss cabinet for 12 years from 1988 and twice served in the largely ceremonial post of Swiss president.

Ogi officially launched the UN International Year of Sport and Physical Education at a ceremony in New York in December 2004 attended by Annan and Swiss tennis star Roger Federer.

In December 2005 a three-day international conference in Magglingen, Switzerland, marked the end of the Year of Sport.

The Swiss government is financing Ogi's continuing mission with SFr410,000 ($313,936) for the 2005-2006 period.

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Key facts

Highlights of the UN Year of Sport included a series of global conferences on the links between sport and health, education, peace and the environment.
The biggest political event was a Swiss-hosted international conference on sport and development in December.

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