Carla Bernardo ANA
Development through youth and sports was the driving message at the opening ceremony of the 2015 World Sports Values Summit for Peace and Development (WSVS), featuring people such as Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, former South African football star Lucas Radebe and cricketing hero Gary Kirsten.
“You have the capacity for achievement like nobody else,” said Australia’s most successful swimmer, Thorpe, addressing hundreds of youth at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Monday.
“When you are a young person, you have the mindset that you can achieve anything – and rightly so.”
Thorpe, part of a group of distinguished sportsmen, joined the opening panel of the WSVS. The annual summit, in its fourth year, was hosted in Africa for the first time and focused on youth and sports as driving forces for peace and development.
Thorpe discussed his swimming career, which began at 14, saying his age contributed to his success and that unlike adults, youths’ idealistic view of the world was what created world record holders like himself and US swimmer Michael Phelps.
Other big names in attendance at the opening ceremony included former Bafana Bafana and Leeds United captain Radebe and former Proteas batsman and South African coach Kirsten, who also coached India to World Cup glory in 2011.
“It doesn’t matter if you play sports or you want to be a doctor or a teacher. There is one thing that I have learnt and that is that talent alone will not make you a success,” said Radebe.
“I have worked hard and I sacrificed a lot. I sacrificed family life and I had to sacrifice pap and wors and trade it in for Yorkshire pudding,” he said of his time at Leeds in England.
Radebe added that once you reach the peak of your career, “what makes you a success is what you give back”.
“People respect you not because you have a nice car but because of humility,” he said.
Also driving home the message of giving back was Kirsten, whose academy launched its first cricket pitch in Khayelitsha yesterday.
“Eighteen months ago I was driving in Khayelitsha with the principal of Chris Hani (school),” said Kirsten.
“What surprised me was that I did not see a single cricket pitch and net.”
From this experience Kirsten, along with his foundation, embarked on a mission to get cricket pitches, nets and coaches to township schools.
Assisting most of the sportsmen attending the conference, particularly with funding, was chairperson of the Worldwide Support for Development and the International Sports Promotion Society, Haruhisa Handa.
He too addressed attendees at the opening ceremony.
“I am not shaped like a dolphin like Ian Thorpe, or have feet that curve around a ball like Radebe, but it’s not only physical features that make them a success,” he said. “It is the human spirit.”
Handa, who invests in sporting initiatives, aimed at developing communities – such as indoor football, known as Fives Futbol in Cape Town, whose chief executive Adam Fine also spoke at the opening ceremony – said he hoped the summit would inspire young people.
“I hope that you go home with a sense of wonder about the values sports can bring to communities,” said Handa.
The conference ends on Tuesday.