The positive power of sports lies in its ability to bring people, communities and nations together from all over the world.
On a diplomatic level, sports is an important asset that has the potential to break down cultural barriers, advance national interests and serve as a link between groups of people and nations.
At the ‘Fiji – Australia Sports Diplomacy’ event at Suncorp Stadium on Tuesday 16th of April, High Commissioner of Fiji Luke Daunivalu said that “the aim of the meeting was to continue the discussion about how sport can increase people-to-people links between the two countries and strengthen communities in Fiji.”
His Excellency also stated that, “we are committed to working together as family to strengthen our [Fiji – Australia] bond, grow partnership, embrace new opportunities and address common challenges.”
Source: Pacific Beat
Other guest speakers at the event who spoke highly of the power of sports in strengthening diplomatic ties were Senator Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific; and Petero Civoniceva, rugby league legend.
However, the most prominent speaker for me was 23 years old Sera Naiqama, who was recently drafted to the Wallaroos national rugby union team.
In her address to guests, Sera shared the words of a former coach who told her about the impact sport can have; that “a ball can draw thousands of people into a stadium, change the trajectory of people’s lives and provide opportunities for people who can do things that some can only say they can do.”
Source: Pacific Beat
Besides other sports champions whom were present at the event, it was Sera Naiqama that I had wanted my 16 year old niece, Kelera Ratu, to meet. Kelera flew up from our hometown of Melbourne the night before specifically for the Sports Diplomacy event in Brisbane.
Kelera plays for Victoria Touch Footy Open Womens as winger & runs 200m & 400m for Western Athletics in Melbourne. She just returned from Utah, USA competing in 400m medley relay.
In future, Kelera hopes to compete in the Commonwealth Games for Fiji running the 200m & 400m and to play touch rugby for Australia.
The main question asked at the Sports Diplomacy event was, “can sport be used to improve both diplomatic relations and the lives of people in developing countries such as Fiji?”
In my view, I believe that a committed focus on the following three strategies from Australia’s Sport Diplomacy 2030 vision between 2019 – 2022 will most likely foster and strengthen relations between the two nations as Australia plans to:
- Build strong linkages with her South Pacific neighbours;
- Maximise trade, tourism and investment opportunities; and
- Strengthen communities in the Indo-Pacific region.
Through Sports Diplomacy 2030, the Australian Government will:
- develop pathways for elite Pacific athletes and teams to participate in Australian and international sporting competitions;
- facilitate access for emerging Pacific athletes to participate in high performance training in Australia;
- develop pathways for Australian sporting codes to increase their presence in the Pacific; and
- identify targeted opportunities to strengthen diplomatic and economic relationships through sport across the Indo-Pacific.
The answer to the above question is a resounding yes! Without a doubt, I believe that diplomatic sports ties can open doors to a more desirable link between different groups of people and nations like no other avenue can.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination. Sports is the game of lovers,” Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa 1994 – 1999.
Disclaimer: The content within is general or publicly available information only. Beyond the Pacific and its authors do not work for any government bodies but share up to date policies as a goodwill gesture only. For reference and more information on Australia’s Sport Diplomacy 2030 outline, click here.