Delegates from 10 places affected by wars or internal conflicts have travelled to Abu Dhabi to give peace a sporting chance. The occasion is Generations for Peace, a camp launched in Amman in 2007 by Prince Feisal al Hussein, the crown prince of Jordan, as an initiative to use sport to unite youths from divided countries. This year it is Abu Dhabi's turn, and 69 delegates are participating. The objective is to use sport as a tool for building understanding and co-operation.
"As a result of our previous two camps, nearly 150 graduates have returned to 16 countries to cascade their new knowledge and skills to thousands of young people," Prince Feisal said yesterday at the opening ceremony in Abu Dhabi. The National Basketball Association (NBA) is supporting the camp by providing coaches and curriculum support. Coaches include the NBA star Ronaldo Blackman, as director of basketball development, and the US basketball Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Azzi.
The delegates will undergo interactive classroom sessions combined with exercises in basketball, softball, football and volleyball. When the delegates go back to their countries, they are expected to develop at least 20 trainers every year, work with 100 to 200 children annually, advocate peace projects and promote Generations for Peace, which will continue to support the activities after the camp.
Donna de Varona, winner of two Olympic gold medals, emphasised that sport enabled people from various backgrounds to come together. She recalled the first time she participated in the Olympics, at age 13, when an African athlete carried her on his shoulders to view the celebrations because she was too short. Ms Varona will be training the participants in softball. Al Jazeera Club is providing the camp with the required facilities and coaches, including its top football players from Brazil, Joao Fernando Nelo and Ivorian Diaky. The International Sports Federation and a coach from the British football club Brighton and Hove Albion are also helping with the training.
At the opening ceremony, a partnership agreement was signed between the president of Samsung Gulf Electronics, Sun-Bong Kim, and Prince Feisal through which Samsung will provide the equipment and support for peace camps held in the Middle East this year. This camp's graduates will be provided with digital cameras from Samsung when they complete their first project once they return to their homelands, and they will use these cameras to provide feedback.
"The ability of sports to unify people and encourage them to challenge themselves and find inspiration strongly reflects Samsung's core philosophy of striving to improve society through digital technology," Mr Kim said. More equipment and other types of support will follow as activities at the camp and beyond proceed, said Karan Chopra, a marketing manager at Samsung Gulf Electronics. Delegates were split into groups yesterday to discuss personal conflicts they had experienced, how they tried to solve them and why they chose to be part of a peace programme rather than stay home and take revenge. Jawad Abdullah from the ministry of youth and sports in the Palestinian Territories, recalled his 10-year experience in holding sporting activities for groups who are not capable of joining sport clubs, such as overweight children.
Noting that neither war nor peace had so far been able to end the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, he said: "I am not saying sports is enough to end the conflict, but engaging the community in sports could help build bridges of tolerance and understanding." Countries represented at Generations for Peace Abu Dhabi Camp 09, held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister, include India, Nigeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, and the UAE. Delegates from the Palestinian Territories are also present.