After the successful 2018 SportAccord Convention in Bangkok, the city once again took centre stage to host the United Through Youth World Forum – Bangkok also being the birthplace of the United Through Sports initiative.
The build-up to the forum saw the seven day IFMA Youth World Championship with over 1,200 delegates from 82 countries participating. On the 9th August, the final day of the Youth Championship, IFMA joined forces once again with United Through Sports (UTS) to coordinate an exceptional forum inviting youth from over 50 sports to take part. The event was hosted by children and the audience was predominantly sports youth from around the world.
The Youth Forum was patronized by GAISF with a personal video welcome message by GAISF President Patrick Baumann. The event was also in cooperation and patronage of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand, the Ministry of Tourism and Sport as well as the Department of Physical Education.
To open the forum and address the youth was Mr Hongjoo Hahm, Officer-in-charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Mr Hahm warmly welcomed the sporting youth, IFMA and UTS into the home of United Nations and the ESCAP centre outlining the importance of sport towards cultural understanding, peace and harmony.
The IOC and NOCT was represented by Thailand’s IOC member, Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul. Mrs. Leeswadtrakul gave a poignant speech and important presentation focusing on the goal of the Olympic movement in contributing towards building a more peaceful world by educating youth via sport. Mrs. Leeswadtrakul expressed her regret at the passing of Dr. Nat Indrapana IOC member of Thailand. And along with Dr. Sakchye Tapsuwan she rang the Final Bell, which was followed by a minute of silence.
Speakers came from prestigious organisations including: IFMA President, Dr. Sakchye Tapsuwan, Dr. Meechai Inwood Director of Thailand’s Doping Control Agency, IFMA Sport Director Charissa Tynan, OIC Deputy Representative of UNICEF Christina Popivanova, CEO of United Through Sports (UTS) Julia Govinden, Head of IFMA Athletes Commission Janice Lyn, Right To Play’s Niamh De Loughry, IFMA Vice President Sue Glassey, Younghwa Choi UN Women Representative and GAISF Vice President Stephan Fox.
The Youth Forum topics included; gender equality, sports and ethics, doping rules and permissions for TUEs, Health and Nutrition in sport, Non-discrimination and many other relevant topics. Each speaker focused on the youth as their audience, with an aim to unite, educate and raise global awareness.
At the mid-point of the events, everyone in the ESCAP centre stood in solidarity holding candles towards a better tomorrow. Imani Cintado-O’Donovan gave a powerful rendition of “Hallelujah” reminiscent of the April SportAccord Convention when she graced the stage and moved all leaders of the sporting world.
GAISF Vice President and IFMA General Secretary Stephan Fox was the final speaker focusing on the difference sport can make and the importance of sport in making positive change. He emphasized the importance of respect and gave the example of Muaythai where athletes walk to their opponent’s corner to drink water as a sign of respect.
Another fitting example of the respect and discipline which sport teaches the youth was the recent rescue of the Wild Board football team in Thailand. An entire team of 12 players and their coach were trapped for 23 days inside flooded caves in Pattaya. They relied on team spirit, the leadership of the coach and the support of one another. On the outside, the world came together to rescue the team with an alliance of the world’s best divers, engineers and medical officials who joined forces, putting their lives on the line – and indeed tragcially losing one life – for the mission of bringing the entire team to safety.This mission was achieved.
The GAISF Council awarded the Spirit of Sport Award for bravery and commitment of each individual who contributed to the rescue. On behalf of President Patrick Baumann, Stephan Fox presented the award to the Governor of Maichai, accompanied by two Thai children representing the team who could not be there on the day.
CEO of UTS Julia Govinden stated that history was made on this beautiful day in bringing the youth together even from parts of the world in which countries are in conflict. The children came together in solidarity accepting their differences as they sat side by side under the United Nations symbol. They shook hands, became friends and for the adults in the rooom it was clear that after all there is hope.