In the framework of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, a special award was given to a basketball league operator based in Slovenia. The award acknowledged the league's efforts and achievements in bringing diverse cultures together through sport in the former Yugoslavia, as it brings together several teams from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro. Delivering the prize, Slovenian Minister for Sport Milan Zver said sport could break all stereotypes. "Each experiment of uniting nations in this region is even more important and the international, regional-oriented basketball league ABA Sidro NLB has managed to realise it in the great project through the most genuine way of connecting people's values," said Zver.
The International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA), which contributed to the Commission's upcoming 2008 study entitled "Sharing Diversity - National approaches to Intercultural Dialogue," argues that current methods of using sport as a tool for promoting intercultural dialogue in Europe lack an overall strategy and policy and are based on good practice rather than evidence-based research.
It underlines the voluntary character of the settings in which intercultural interventions are implemented, such as sport associations and clubs, and argues that few of these civil society organisations are "beyond the critical mass when it comes to involvement in work with integration through sport". However, it argues that in volunteer-based NGOs, critical mass is important both in shaping the internal and external profile of such organisations and in attracting human and financial resources.
Regarding the informal "intercultural learning dimension," ISCA argues that "it takes more than sport and physical activities to facilitate a useful and valuable intercultural dialogue." Namely, an objective beyond the sport activity and an educational perspective are needed, along with "proper settings where the [...] perspective is transformed into action".
ISCA President Mogens Kirkeby regrets that the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008 was launched without the involvement of the European sport sector. "It is an unfortunate missed opportunity not to support and highlight the sport sector's capacity to assist intercultural dialogue and integration," he said.
"It is the goal to make 2008 a grass roots-oriented campaign year. What is more grass-root oriented and widespread than this civil society sector - the sport sector? The sector – especially 'sport for all' - has operational structures locally, nationally and internationally, with more than 70 million Europeans directly involved."
ISCA recommends that the increased interest in intercultural dialogue among civil society organisations and sport associations be further strengthened with the support of European funding. It calls for a European programme to be developed to facilitate national strategies and local interventions. Furthermore, it recommends that "European and national campaigns should be directly connected with local implementation settings".
UEFA president Michel Platini said: "European sport has always been a powerful catalyst for social and cultural integration. Millions of children from all parts of the world have become and continue to become European by kicking a ball around a muddy pitch in our towns or countryside before going to school [...] Grassroots sport is an extraordinary catalyst for ethnic intermixing and integration. Football in particular is a welcoming, protecting and integrating sport."
However, Platini regrets that many social problems, including violence, are "unfortunately" also a part of sport and in particular football. "Society has also passed other scourges on to the world of sport: money-laundering, match-fixing, illegal betting, racism and xenophobia, doping and child trafficking," he said.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) aims to promote the development of the culture and Olympic education agenda through sport at national, regional and international levels, as well as at the Olympic Games. IOC policy aims to "develop the link between sport and culture in all its forms, encourage cultural exchange and promote the diversity of cultures". Secondly, it aims to promote Olympic education and supports other institutions which promote the values of 'Olympism', which is described as "a philosophy of life". "Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles."
The first Youth Olympic Games, which will be held in Singapore in 2010, "are the flagship of the IOC's determination to reach out to young people. These Games will not only be about competition. They will also be the platform through which youngsters will learn about the Olympic values and the benefits of sport, and will share their experiences with other communities around the globe," said IOC President Jacques Rogge.
The goal of the Olympic Movement is "to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play," states the movement.