The Olympic ideal has survived countless political and cultural upheavals including the ravages of two bitterly fought World Wars and subsequently the tensions engendered by the cold war. We all see in the Olympic ideal one of those great and magnanimous ideas that fuel our dreams and hopes - an ideal that each and everyone of us can adopt as our own.
Sport embodies a code of ethics and a value system all its own. It symbolizes a sense of sportsmanship based on fair competition, respect and friendship. It also offers a valuable form of education. It makes us better human beings because it breaks down the artificial barriers of class and race we have erected between ourselves.
This ideal has travelled to every continent bringing to life, under the banner of the Olympic rings, the aspirations of countless young people the world over. In fact, more countries belong to the International Olympic Committee than to the United Nations - testimony of its international appeal.
The sure worth of the Olympic Movement has been its unceasing effort to weave sport into the social fabric of all nations.
Environment like sports knows no frontiers, no territorial borders. It transcends ideological cleavages. It does not recognize artificial distinctions between North and South or East and West. It is one and indivisible. We are all members of the global environmental community - an extended family where everyone has equal right to fulfill the fullest measure of his or her potential. There are other commonalities. The vision of one earth, one family presupposes a new contract between people and nature on the one hand and, on the other, among peoples and nations - a contract characterized by interdependence and equity.
It is in the light of the above that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) welcomes the Olympic Movement's Agenda 21 document that was endorsed by the Olympic Family at the Third World Conference on Sport and the Environment at Rio de Janeiro on October 21-24 1999.
The Olympic Movement's Agenda 21 should serve as a useful reference tool for the sports community at all levels in the protection of the environment and enhancement of sustainable development.
This document, prepared by the IOC Sport and Environment Commission, in close consultation with UNEP, lays out significant provisions for the active involvement of the global sports community in the protection and safeguarding of the environment.
UNEP also welcomes the far-reaching Statement of the Conference, the "Rio Statement", which calls for the implementation of the Olympic Movement's Agenda 21 as the basis of the policy of close collaboration between members of the Olympic Movement and the United Nations Environment Programme.
A good starting point for new national approaches and policies on sports and environment should simply be the recognition that healthy athletes need a healthy environment to train and perform at their optimum level.
As a minimum that means that governments, sports organizations and athletes have a common interest in:
- Basic air quality standards to ensure that the air we and our athletes breathe does not impair our health.
- Basic water quality standards to ensure that the water we drink and the rivers and lakes we use for swimming, fishing and rowing does not impair our health.
- Basic food and nutrition standards to ensure everyone has access to adequate and healthy food.
- Adequate green space and facilities for sports and recreation , especially in the many densely populated and fast growing urban slums throughout the world.
Although these basic requirements are primarily the responsibility of national and local governments, their policies and programmes have little chance of success without the support of informed and involved citizens.
The support of top sport organizations and sporting industries in the achievement of these goals can also not be underestimated. They not only have a special interest in maintaining environmental quality, but as prominent heroes and role models in their countries can influence the thinking and actions of many others.
UNEP fully supports the establishment of a UNEP/IOC Joint Working Group to provide policy advice and guidance on and to monitor the implementation of the Olympic Movement's Agenda 21. This Group will present detailed progress reports to important meetings of the Olympic Movement as well as to the future World Conferences on Sport and the Environment.
UNEP supports the objectives put forward in this document and will continue to contribute to the promotion of these objectives and the implementation of the Olympic Movement's Agenda 21.
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