Today’s Olympic links between sport and education go back even further than the International Olympic Committee (IOC) itself. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a French intellectual and founder of the IOC, was fascinated by education and the role of sport. He believed that organised sport created moral and social strength, and argued that sport at British schools was a major factor in the country’s 19th century expansion. He wanted to increase access to education and sport for young people around the world, regardless of race, nationality and income. And it was these ideas – in part – which led to the establishment of the modern Olympic Games, a festival of international athleticism.
Today, De Coubertin’s ideas still hold strong. In 2015, the UN General Assembly recognised the growing contribution of sport to peace and development, arguing that sport promotes tolerance and respect. Building on these ideas and keen to contribute to the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4) on education, Olympic host cities today still develop inclusive education programmes that embody the Olympic values of excellence, respect and friendship.
Get Set in London
At the 2012 London Games, for example, Get Set, a sports participation programme, involved over seven million young people. In studies, 91 per cent of supervising teachers reported favourable effects on teamwork and motivation. Nearly eight years later, Get Set still supports schools across the UK with free teaching resources.
Meanwhile, International Inspiration, the London Olympics’ sports legacy programme, continues to have an impact. Reaching 25 million children around the world by the end of 2019, the programme has trained over 250,000 teachers, coaches and other leaders to strengthen sporting systems in their countries for future generations. Thanks to long-term funding, the legacy programme currently supports ongoing programmes in Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia and elsewhere.
Transforma in Rio
The next Olympic Games, Rio 2016, then launched Transforma, an education programme that aimed to use sport as an education tool and at the same time increase the number of sports offered in schools across Brazil. Brazilian schools are known for teaching just four sports – football, basketball, handball and volleyball. This can limit motor-skill learning, as different sports promote different movement abilities. It can also mean that when kids do not enjoy the traditional four sports, they sometimes avoid PE classes or fall victim to bullying. Since 2013, more than 28,000 Brazilian schools in 4,400 cities have been part of the programme, which still continues to this day through a private foundation. Both quantitative and qualitative findings have shown an increase in sports participation.
PyeongChang’s Dream Programme
PyeongChang’s Dream Programme started way back in 2004 – 14 years before the city hosted the 2018 Olympic Games. Created during the city’s first Olympic bid, the programme finds kids with little exposure to snow and involves them in both winter sports and Korean culture. So far, 2,028 young people from 84 different countries have taken part in the annual event; and close to 200 Dream participants have gone on to compete internationally, including at the Olympic Winter Games.
PyeongChang 2018 also helped change the way sport was discussed in the classroom, helping the Olympic message to reach over 7.5 million students across Korea. Empowering girls and teaching the importance of inclusion and gender balance are one of its major hallmarks. Last, but not least, nearly 115,000 Korean teachers have experienced training in Olympic values education, ensuring that students continue to benefit from the legacy of PyeongChang.
PyeongChang’s legacy will be extended too, when Gangwon Province hosts the Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2024. Many of PyeongChang’s youth and sports programmes are either still running or have been reactivated. This year, 2020, the education programme is expected to be fully operational, reaching up to 20,000 students from elementary schools across Korea.
Most recently of all, the Lausanne Youth Winter Olympic Games involved 130,000 children and youngsters, teaching them about the values of sport through educational programmes in local schools.
Beyond London 2012, Rio 2016, PyeongChang 2018 and Lausanne 2020, which represent just a snapshot of the Olympic Movement’s combined educational legacy, the Olympic education programmes address both local and international challenges. They offer opportunities for people everywhere to be inspired, learn, and to participate in sport now and for many generations to come.