Real World Champions

The 47 Champions for Peace each contribute to Peace and Sport in their own way. The respective stories of Alexandra Kosteniuk, Kaveh Mehrabi, Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Quereshi provide a wide range of examples of how athletes can make a genuine difference in the organisation’s ongoing mission.

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“Some of our Champions for Peace have been on the ground this year, and they now understand that they can make a difference to the programme,” says Joël Bouzou, the founder and president of Peace and Sport. “We’ve made a test with these Champions, and it works. We know it works.” An emphatic belief in the importance of sportsmen and women to the organisation’s success is unsurprising, given Bouzou’s own position as a former world champion and the Olympian status he shares with Peace and Sport’s patron, Prince Albert II of Monaco, but the former pentathlete is adamant that the Champions for Peace can do more than just lend their name to a project or cause. “There is more and more we can do as the Champions come and see the work on the ground, because even if they have the philosophical wish to help from the beginning, when they come and see they really become the actors,” he insists. “It becomes one of the priorities of their future.” In truth, there are as many ways for the Champions for Peace to help the cause as there are athletes themselves. At present, that number stands at 47, and includes Olympic and Paralympic champions, Fifa World Cup and Rugby World Cup winners, IAAF world champions and multiple world record holders. Not that a sports star needs to be instantly recognised as an Olympic champion to make a difference; indeed, just as important a role can be played by someone who does not even compete in an Olympic sport. Alexandra Kosteniuk, for example, would perhaps not come to mind as quickly as Yelena Isinbayeva when considering which Russian world champions might be an asset to the programme, but her dedication to the project    ” international chess title at the age of ten. In partnership with Peace and Sport, Kosteniuk, a Russian, European and world champion and chess grandmaster at the age of 25, travelled to Colombia in April to work with hundreds of underprivileged children in Puerto Tejada. The move was far  %  & ” ) )   Colombia: the organisation’s partnership with the Colombianitos NGO had previously seen it launch Ping Pong Paz with support from the International Table Tennis Federation      '    an effort to help disadvantaged youngsters in the country. Colombianitos worked with Peace and Sport and Kosteniuk to launch the Ajedrez por la Paz – Chess for Peace – programme that aims to involve 4,000 children in deprived neighbourhoods across seven Colombian cities. Like many of Peace and Sport’s programmes, it uses the activity itself to make a difference to the society in which those children live and better equip them for that life; in its own words, it ‘was designed to bring structure and guidance’ into those lives. ‘It aims to strengthen social cohesion and dialogue and   )  ”  in their environment,’ continues the The 47 Champions for Peace each contribute to Peace and Sport in their own way. The respective stories of Alexandra Kosteniuk, Kaveh Mehrabi, Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Quereshi provide a wide range of examples of how athletes can make a genuine difference in the organisation’s ongoing mission. REAL WORLD CHAMPIONS By Adam Fraser SPECIAL REPORT | PEACE AND SPORT Two Champions for Peace, Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Quereshi, take to the court at Wimbledon Founded by Mikhail Prokhorov, Onexim Sports and Entertainment is the principal owner of the NBA’s NETS Basketball team. Onexim Sports and Entertainment is focused on building an exciting championship team and making the NETS the first international NBA franchise. The NETS recently held a clinic for 3,000 children in Russia and participated in two preseason games and community activities in China. In March, the NETS will play two games at The O2 arena in London, the first NBA regular season games ever played in Europe. In addition to its ownership of the NETS, Onexim Sports and Entertainment is a partner in the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn, New York, which will become the new state-of-the art home of the NETS in 2012. For more information on NETS Basketball and the Barclays Center, please log on to www.njnets.com and www.barclayscenter.com, respectively. Mikhail Prokhorov, through Onexim Group, is a Founding Partner of Peace and Sport. 82 | SportsProMedia.com mission statement. ‘It trains them to have the concentration necessary to play chess and introduces them to the value of personal achievement.’ Kosteniuk’s involvement, which has been key since the day the project was launched, remains vital. Other members of the group lead by example. Tennis players Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Quereshi form a strong doubles team, but the most remarkable aspect of their story is their friendship itself. Bopanna, from India, and Qureshi, from Pakistan, have been doubles partners for three years, but took the decision to capitalise on that for the good of relations between their countries after noticing that fans from communities in both their countries put mistrust and hostility to one side when      ž  ” ATP tournament in Mumbai in 2007, there was the astonishing spectacle of Pakistani  )   !  most populous city. Backed by their technical supplier, Lotto Sport Italia, Bopanna and Quereshi appeared at Wimbledon this year resplendent in specially made t-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with the legend: ‘Stop War, Start Tennis.’ Indeed, though Lotto runs its own programme, FreeFromLaces, that aims to free its online followers from the ‘laces’ – personal, mental, social, cultural and physical – restricting their lives, the Italian company’s involvement demonstrates another key role of the Champions for Peace: mobilising their own peers, colleagues and sponsors. That is something that the Iranian badminton player, Kaveh Mehrabi, has managed as well as anyone. “In badminton we’re not the richest athletes in the world, we’re not tennis players or anything like that,” he says. “So it was not really possible    ”     much as I would love to do that. But I have a good network because of my many years in sport and the position I have within the World Badminton Federation.” Mehrabi, a member of the athletes’ commission at the WBF, met Bouzou at the SportAccord conference in 2009, and immediately realised he shared many of the Frenchman’s values. “I thought, OK, the one thing I can do is use my connections to collect equipment,” he continues, “and I realised that a lot of people want to help but they don’t know where to start.” Mehrabi has worked to raise money and equipment to support Peace and Sport’s work in Haiti, where the organisation is working to offer daily educational and sports activities to 50,000 children and teenagers still living in survivor camps. “Peace and Sport have been very open,” says Mehrabi. “Every time I’ve come up with an idea they have given me the green light.” Those ideas have included persuading European badminton champion Peter Gade to auction his 2010 gold medal, the t-shirt in which he won the competition and the winning shuttlecock. “He’s one of my good friends and he gave his gold medal and t-shirt to an auction and put the money to Haiti,” recounts Mehrabi, who has also done his own fundraising. “I did an exhibition match here in Denmark where we raised some money, did some auctions, and the money goes directly to the project,” he says. “I really wanted to help but I had to see how I could help, how I could raise some money and how I could collect some equipment.” The latter has perhaps been the most impressive. Mehrabi has visited numerous badminton clubs in his efforts to collect equipment for Haiti. Modestly, he declares that motivating people to help has not been ” Ÿ%    just don’t know what to do,” he reiterates. Ÿ”        note at your club, or you call a club, and say, ‘hey, collect some badminton equipment for Haiti – even just the second-hand racquets you aren’t using.’ A lot of the time they almost make a joke – ‘is this going to help? They need food!’ – and you say, ‘yes, they need food, but there are other people in charge of that. It’s also nice to bring them back an element of their normal life. And it’s important to keep them out of trouble, keep them out of violence, use their energy – kids have an enormous amount of energy, and it has to be used in a good way.’ And then it clicks and they want to be involved; I’ve hardly ever got a negative reaction. People might not always be able to help, but nobody has said it is a crazy idea.” And that is a telling fact. Mehrabi’s involvement has also seen top badminton   ”A 0  Robertson, both former world champions, become involved in the Haitian cause, with the Iranian serving as the link between Peace and Sport and the Solibad – Solidarity through Badminton – association launched at the start of the year. “In the end, Peace and Sport is looking for us athletes to mobilise our network,” Mehrabi says. “That’s what I did and I know that’s what many of the other athletes have done. I think that’s going to be a very, very important thing because even if I was a wealthy athlete and donated a lot of money myself, you would still need the support of international organisations, and also the local communities, so mobilising your network is very useful and that’s something every athlete can do. “You can get a lot of people involved,” he concludes, “and I’m sure all those people who get involved will have a very high level of personal satisfaction. Because they know, deep inside, that they are helping people who really need support.” “In the end, Peace and Sport is looking for us athletes to mobilise our network.” Kaveh Mehrabi has worked to raise money and equipment to support Peace and Sport in Haiti 80 2010 12 Adam Fraser {filedir_26}SportsProMag_issue28_80-82.pdf [8072] [sportspro_december_2010_january_2011] SportsPro December 2010 / January 2011