Sport, like diplomacy, has the power to bring people and nations together. It is a universal language that can break down barriers and build bridges. It has the power to promote gender equality, disability inclusion, social cohesion and healthy lifestyles. It can be a lifeline for those struggling or marginalised, and it can teach youth many valuable lessons.
Sport is a diplomatic tool in and of itself. For Australia, where sport is very much a part of our dna , we use our love of sports as an expression of who we are and what we stand for. We include sport in our development programs across the Indo-Pacific region, partnering with civil society and the private sector to find innovative ways to tackle social issues. And over the next decade, we will be on the sporting centre stage, hosting three of the world’s four biggest sporting events, culminating in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brisbane in 2032.
Pope Francis has underlined the importance and value of sport on many occasions, and it is of particular significance that the Holy See has established its own sporting association, Athletica Vaticana, to promote the values of inclusion, fraternity and friendship.
In support of these objectives, several Ambassadors and Embassies to the Holy See participated in the “We Run Together” meeting on 24 May organised by Athletica Vaticana and its partners. The event saw countries from several continents running a non-competitive 4x400m relay, creating connections through a shared sporting experience.
Ambassadors and diplomats will be participating in the event alongside youth, individuals with down syndrome and autism, prison inmates, women who have suffered domestic violence, and migrants and refugees, as well as athletes from Athletica Vaticana, the Fiamme Gialle and Fidal Lazio.
The event showcased how sport is a great leveller — the same rules apply to all — and how it is a space for encounter. The relay in particular symbolises the value of cooperation, of team work, and of team spirit. As Pope Francis says, we are all in the same boat, and it is only together, as a community of nations, that we will be able to overcome the enormous challenges that our world is facing.
Whether it’s on the court, sports field or running track, or in the pool, sports diplomacy harnesses the unique power of sport to bring people, nations and communities closer together.
*Australian Ambassador to the Holy See
Chiara Porro *