Olympians welcome Pope’s promotion of sports as ‘peacebuilding’
By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis met Friday with participants in the Vatican-organized meeting on “Sport for all. Cohesive, Accessible and Tailored to each Person”.
In his speech, the Pope highlighted the role sport can play in helping foster integration within communities, while also offering a message of peace.
“If the world of sport conveys unity and cohesion, it can become a formidable ally in building peace,” he said.
Following the papal audience, Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), spoke to Vatican News’ Stefanie Stahlhofen about the Pope’s message.
He said the Pope and the IOC share the desire to promote peace, noting that sports offer a place where people of various cultures and nationalities can meet in friendly competition.
Speaking to the group, the Pope held up the Olympic motto – “altius, citius, fortius – communiter”, saying “it is necessary to play as a team, to work together.”
Mr. Bach welcomed this comment on the motto, saying everyone can be “faster, higher, and stronger together”.
The motto “Faster, Higher, Stronger” was coined by Father Henri Didon, a French Dominican priest of the 19th century. The IOC adopted the motto in 1894. On 20 July 2021, the International Olympic Committee added the final word – “together”.
Risk of commercialization
Asked about the outsized costs cities must shoulder to host the Olympic Games, Mr. Bach acknowledged that a part of sports is “highly commercialized” and runs the risk of becoming “just an entertainment business”.
However, he noted, “even in these highly commercialized sports, everybody respects the same rules. Everybody is equal. Everybody respects the referee. So, the core values of sport are still represented.”
A temptation does arise, said Mr. Bach, to let money overturn the respect for rules, something he said must be addressed.
“But overall,” he concluded, “sport has its values and is defending its values.”