Amanda Lo (United States) on Using Olympic Values to End Discrimination

August 3, 2012

Among the several fundamental principles of Olympism enshrined in the Olympic Charter, the idea of non-discrimination and equality regardless of one’s race, religion, politics, and gender as stipulated in Articles 4 and 6 is crucial in addressing global challenges of the twenty-first century.
Many of our challenges today are rooted in discrimination and misunderstandings of the ‘other.’ Due to gender discrimination, women have twenty percent less chance to have a job than men, and are paid, on average, seventeen percent less than their male counterparts. Other forms of discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, and race have caused continuing violence in Africa, such as the Darfur region in Sudan in recent years, and perpetuated ethnic conflicts in many African countries such as Nigeria, Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Kenya, and Zimbabwe.

A focus on Olympic values is urgently needed to end gender discrimination and to bring an end to the various wars. Instilling a sense of respect for each person under the spirit of friendship among men and women in all societies, as well as among rival groups in war zones can give the opportunity for future generations to live in harmony.

A gender wage gap persists because women who are equally qualified or more qualified than men are paid a smaller wage. Gender inequality is rooted in an unequal treatment of the two genders. In order to end gender discrimination, we must recognize that respect for women is as important as respect for men, and that women cannot achieve equity without male allies. Gender equality is possible through the joint effort of men and women working towards this goal.

Peacebuilding efforts oriented to promoting fundamental values of Olympism like respect, friendship, and nondiscrimination facilitate peace, cooperation, and reconciliation in post-conflict zones. For example, through the use of media such as film, stereotypes that each side has formulated about the ‘other’ group can be demolished. Films celebrating the unique history, culture and people of one group can be shown to another group, and through the exchange of films, both sides can come to better understand the ‘other.’

Alternatively, NGOs and international organizations could assist in the production of a television soap opera series that promotes reconciliation and national unity in a country torn apart by racial, religious, and ethnic lines. The series could stress Olympic values of mutual respect for others, friendship, and non-discrimination. A sample plotline and characters could include several teenagers who are from different ethnic or racial groups that have a historic hatred for each other becoming friends. They get to know each other for who they truly are and gradually learn to respect and treat everybody as equals.
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