Today, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was announced, the laureate went out to the National Dialogue Quarteta for their contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 Jasmine Revolution. Every year, the Nobel Peace Prize marks one of the major milestones that have taken place around the globe.
Yet the awareness of this major event that has reached many and marked some can be
largely rivaled conversations around results or result speculations generated by mega sporting event. How many people can name who played the final of the 2014 world cup last year? And in comparison, how many remember the names of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates last year?
For this reason, I wish to draw some attention to the strength a mega event such as the Rugby World Cup that is currently on going and what this event may offer if we speak not only of results but also in terms of truce, unity and conflict transformation.
Historically, many have heard of the 1995 Rugby World Cup and its significance for
South Africa and the world. The events even became the subject of a film Invictus . Mandela’s release from prison during the fall of apartheid in 1993 meant an end to international sanctions and sporting boycotts, 1994, a year after saw the first multiracial democratic election, which was followed by one year later South Africa both hosting and winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Before this moment rugby was a sport played by the white elite a quasi-religion of the ruling class, the Springbok were detested and shunned by the black majority. The World Cup marked a symbolic moment that captured the new era. When Pienaar, the blond Afrikaner captain of the winning Springboks shook hands with the black freedom fighter turned president, they instantly forged one of the world defining images of racial unity.
If you are watching the Rugby World Cup this year, in a time where migration is a hot topic, note the diversity, the unity within each team and how they use each other’s strengths. Let me illustrate one more example, the Irish team, the team unites players from the north, (Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom), and south (Republic of Ireland) even though the island is divided into two separate political areas. At the start of the game, a symbolic song, the “Ireland call” is used as a hymn in international matches, starting in rugby it has spread; now other Irish sporting teams such as cricket or hockey use this song.
Mega sporting events may not have won the Nobel Peace prize just yet but their impact on uniting people or momentary peace or truce is undeniable and their peace building potential untapped. I hope that many will hear and share these stories and will be inspired to join a cause that needs support the work for peace through sport.