September 18, 2012
Once every four years the world watches in awe as incredible people achieve great things on the track and field. And the London Olympics this summer were no exception.
Once again Usain Bolt sprinted to 100 metre glory. British runner Mo Farah delighted home crowds by winning two gold medals. And Michael Phelps made certain of his sporting legacy by becoming the most decorated Olympic medalist of all time.
But does any of this really matter, if the world can’t be inspired by these Olympic achievements as well?
Is sport for sports sake really enough?
At Laureus, we believe that sport can not only be a source of great joy, of exhilarating thrills and entertainment, but a priceless tool to help change lives and make the world a better place.
It’s something we see happening all year round.
This year at the Laureus World Sports Awards we caught up with the legendary Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson, and she said something to us about her hopes for the Olympic legacy that really hit home.
She told us that: “If a young child was inspired enough by the opening ceremony to become a fashion designer, then it will mean something.”
Far from East London’s Olympic Stadium, just outside Johannesburg in South Africa, we support a project called Sport for All. And something much like what Tanni said is happening.
Sport for All is based in the township of Palmridge. Here, not far from the small ‘shack’ where he lives with his mother and sister, a boy called Thando can often be found playing cricket and football with his friends.
Before he started with the project Thando admits he was in the wrong crowd. He smoked, he stole things from people in the township.
But one day he was brought into the project by one of the young leaders there named Siyabonga.
Now, in his own words, he says: “Things are getting better… They have taught how I should live life.”
What’s so great about Thando’s story is that the project hasn’t just instilled a love of sport, though that certainly is true as well. The other positive is how it has helped him focus his attention on the future and onto what he dreams of doing with the rest of his life.
And that dream is to be a top chef. “Actually, I’d love to cook on a cruise ship, travelling around Australia,” he tells us.
Back in London, a few miles from the centre of this year’s Olympic activity in a place called Elephant and Castle, another Laureus-supported project called Urban Stars is helping young people change their own lives for the better.
The Aylesbury estate where the project runs is the largest estate in Europe.
It was here that a young man named Ibrahim spent much of his childhood.
“There wasn’t much to do. I was 11 years old, we’d just hang around the streets and when there’s nothing to do, you get up to no good.
“So, I ended up getting into trouble. But then Urban Stars came into my life when I was 14 and when I started volunteering at 16 it gave me the skills to actually give back to my community.”
And what we’ve also seen, here in particular, is how the project is using this change in individual lives to help change the community for the better as well.
Ibrahim reveals: “Urban Stars has brought this place together like a family. Before, people wouldn’t want to know each other and while I was growing up here, there were always two sides.
“There was a real clash between both groups. But by doing sport with both sides, Urban Stars brought them together, it’s a great thing.”
We hope the London Games can leave an Olympic legacy making similar changes to the city, but the story doesn’t have to end there.
You can help us at Laureus continue to help young people make changes to their own lives and communities.
Please join us and get involved today.
Just like Ibrahim told us recently: “There’s still work to be done, but sport can make a big difference.”