The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: We Can Turn Rwanda Into an Active and Winning Nation

column

Over the past few weeks, my focus has been on what can be done to turn Rwanda into an active and winning sporting nation. In my last column, we saw that once commendable successes has been achieved with mass participation programme, it is better to move simultaneously beyond the mobilisation phase with more emphasis on developing and nurturing new talent within a holistic development continuum.

In this regard it is important to link the mass participation and high performance programmes in an effort to eventually reflect a transformed society.

As I conclude my focus on this specific topic, attention will be directed to other critical areas which are needed to help in the policy framework. These include sports tourism, drug free sport, code of ethics, priority codes, transformation, sport for peace and development and sport and the environment.

Sports tourism refers to collaboration between the sports industry and the tourism industry to maximise mutual benefits. Sport has always been an important part of society, but with the global emergence of sports tourism it has also become an increasingly important part of the economy.

Sports tourism is a multibillion-dollar business and one of the fastest growing areas of the global travel and tourism industry. If Rwanda can re-enter into international sport, sports tourism can perform exceptionally well in terms of percentage growth.

The national sports tourism strategy [which we don't have] should be established such that it can encompass guidelines for the bidding and hosting of major sports events in Rwanda.

The hosting of major events in the past has provided Rwanda with vast opportunities to market our nation but nothing has been done as we bid to host many other international, let's has a pro-active plan aimed at economic development. The Sports ministry should seek to encourage and further develop amicable relations with Rwanda Development Board.

To assist the Sports Ministry in its endeavour to broaden the sport participation base with limited resources, the sports Ministry should prioritise sporting codes that have the potential to offer participation opportunities to large segments of the population.

The Sports Ministry should also give priority to those sports with the best chance of success for every franc expended. Some sports will be better developed than others. In determining the priority codes, the Sports Ministry should work in close conjunction with Rwanda Olympic Committee and other role-players.

The criteria could include, amongst others, the accessibility of the sport (in terms of cost of facilities, equipment, fees, etc); number of clubs and registered members; transformation at all levels and the extent to which the federation contributes to Government priorities.

Some sports have multiple disciplines, which mean there are more medals available. In team sports it is necessary to support all the members of the team for the chance of one medal, whereas in others, multiple medals can be achieved for the same financial outlay. The criteria will be reviewed every four years.

Transformation is not about figures. It is about the soul of the nation. It means we have to transform our minds first and see ourselves as Rwandans, not based on ethnic background, men and women, with and without disability.

To have a real and lasting impact on our nation, we cannot compete with the exclusion of certain parts of our population. With true transformation, as a country, Rwanda could become an even greater force in world sport as more people have the opportunity to compete and excel.

Sport and recreation is increasingly being used by UN agencies as well as international sports federations and NGOs to promote social inclusion, prevent conflict, and to enhance peace and development.

Although sport alone cannot prevent conflict or build peace, it can contribute to broader, more comprehensive efforts in a number of important ways. Sports equipment provides a positive and accessible alternative for the guns of conflict.

So we need to fully harness the potential of sport for development and peace initiatives, it should be integrated into national policies. Sport can also utilised as a tool to reduce crime and violence thus the need for the ministry to pursue strategic alliances with the Rwanda National Police and Rwanda Defense Forces and Military Veterans.

The relationship between sport and the environment includes both the impact of sport on the environment and the impact of the environment on sport. All sports activities, events and facilities have an impact on the environment, creating an "ecological footprint".

Although sport is generally not a major cause of pollution, its cumulative impact can be significant and can include erosion, waste generation and habitat loss. As a result, the negative impact of sport on the environment should always be minimized.

It is also important for sport to be pursued in an environmentally sustainable manner, given that the deterioration of environmental conditions reduces the health, well-being and living standards of individuals and communities as well as their levels of physical activity.

Factors such as waterborne, airborne and soil borne pollutants and ultraviolet radiation impact negatively on people's ability and willingness to participate in sport.

So we should ensure that major sports events and sports goods are "green" and keep in mind that a cleaner environment can encourage people to be more connected to the natural environment and be more physically active.

The Sports Ministry should be aware of the negative practices in sport such as the use of prohibited substances, exploitation, corruption, alcohol misuse, harassment, violence, misbehavior of players and spectators, etc.

An ethical framework with a view of creating an environment for fair play and where the rights of all people participating in sport and recreation are respected should be established. The Code of Ethics needs to encompass a set of principles and norms to which the sport community can be held accountable.

The on-going battle to eradicate the use of illegal substances by sportsmen and women remains a challenge for the ministry of Sports. The Ministry should fully subscribe to the global fight against doping in sport - a fight aimed at promoting the values of fair play, honesty and good health in sport. There can be no glory or sense of achievement in winning through drugs.

Sports Ministry should set up a National Institute for Drug-free Sport (NIDS) to ensure that all Rwandan sports organisations and federations comply with the directives of this institute.

To have a national impact, it is important that all sporting entities [Sports Ministry, provincial administration, local government, National Olympic committee, federations, and provincial sports councils] in the country align their strategic planning with the national framework.

The success of sports development in Rwanda is dependent on the smooth operation of a system with clear definition of authority, responsibility and accountability combined with seamless progression. There must be one driver and one direction and this must be consistent with Government policy.

It is important to emphasize that an increased and focused commitment at all levels of sport would be advantageous since this could reap great health, economic, social and international benefits.

This being the case, the government must surely consider expenditure on sport as a worthwhile, indeed, necessary investment in the future of our country and its people.

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