"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does" - Nelson Mandela

By Joburg Post

On this week’s feature of the ‘Power of words’ we reflect on and analyse the words of the late former South African President Nelson Mandela who declared during the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in 2000 that, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.

Nelson Mandela, one of the most revered leaders of the 20th century, was known for his unwavering commitment to social justice and human rights.

His words on the power of sports, "Sport has the power to change the world, Sport has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does,"  have resonated with people all around the world and have become one of his most famous quotes.

What did Mandela mean by these words and why are they so important?

Firstly when Mandela talks about the power of sport to change the world he is referring to its ability to bring people together and promote social change.

Sport has always had the power to inspire people to achieve greatness, to
overcome obstacles and to push themselves to new limits. 

Whether it is an
individual athlete or a team, the pursuit of excellence in sport can inspire people to pursue excellence in all aspects of their lives.

23 years later we can also certainly agree that indeed sport also has a significant impact on society, both on an individual and collective level and here are a few ways in which sport can impact society:

1.Promotes Physical and Mental Health: Engaging in sport can help individuals to maintain a healthy lifestyle by promoting physical fitness and well-being. 

Sport can also have a positive impact on mental health by reducing stress, anxiety, depression and promoting positive self-esteem.
2.Builds Character and Values: Sport can help individuals develop important character traits such as discipline, teamwork, perseverance, and leadership. 

These traits can be valuable in all aspects of life, not just on the playing field.
3.Fosters Social Connections: Participating in sport can help individuals form social connections and build relationships with others who share similar interests. 

This can help to break down social barriers and foster a sense of community.

4.Promotes Cultural Understanding: Sport can help to promote cultural understanding and break down cultural barriers.
When people from different cultures come together to participate in any sporting activity they can learn about each other's customs and traditions and build a sense of mutual respect and understanding.

5.Drives Economic Growth: The sport industry can be a significant driver of economic growth by creating jobs and generating revenue through ticket sales, sponsorships and merchandise sales.

Sporting events can also bring tourism to an area which can have a positive impact on local businesses.

6.Promotes Social Change: Sport can be a powerful tool for promoting social change and advancing social justice.

From the civil rights movement to the fight against apartheid, sport has been used to break down barriers and promote equality.

Moreover, sport has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. When people come together to support their favourite sports teams or athletes they transcend social, cultural, and political boundaries. 

In a world that is often divided by differences, sport can be a unifying force that brings people together and helps them find common ground.

Mandela also recognised that sport can be a powerful tool for social change throughout his life, he used sport as a means to promote racial equality and break down barriers of prejudice and discrimination.

For example he famously supported the South African national rugby team during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which
helped to break down some of the racial divisions that had existed in the country for decades.

In conclusion, Mandela's words on the power of sport reflect the importance of this universal language in bringing people together and promoting social change.

Sport has the power to inspire, to unite and to bring about positive change in the world. 

It is a powerful tool that can be used to break down barriers, build bridges between people and communities and promote understanding and mutual respect.

The legacy of Mandela's words lives on today, reminding us of the importance of sport in shaping our world.

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Power of words

Nelson Mandela


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