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Blow the whistle – disqualify racism

 This year South Africa becomes the first African nation ever to host the finals of the Fifa World Cup. UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay is urging all nations to work to ensure the event is free from any kind of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The first Tour-de-Timor Cycle Race is held in 2009 to promote and celebrate peace.- UN Photo/Antoninho BernardinoThe World Cup is one of a number of global sporting events scheduled during 2010 along with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada and the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India. All of these events attract huge global audiences.

With this in mind, “Disqualify racism” is the focus of this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination with the emphasis being on eliminating racism from sport.

Speaking at this year’s commemorative event in Geneva, Pillay spoke of the good that can flow from participation in sport. It has a convening power with considerable potential to assist the integration of marginalized groups and increase social cohesion. “While racism is about hate and exclusion, sport is about affection and participation,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Githu Muigai believes overcoming racism requires approaches which can get the message across in a simple and powerful manner. Bearing in mind the very large and diverse public audiences for sporting events, promoting tolerance and non-discrimination through sport, he said in a statement to mark this year’s day, may well be one of the approaches that is needed.

Sport is also “a mirror of society” and “inequalities, prejudices and stereotypes that exist in communities are often reflected to the same extent in sporting activities”, according to the High Commissioner.

“Fortunately, due to the wide media coverage of sporting events,” Pillay said, “racist acts often do not go unnoticed, triggering debates at various levels… Long-lasting and coherent programmes are needed to substantially change perceptions and attitudes… It is essential to keep in mind that there is never any excuse for racist acts.”

The High Commissioner took part in a panel discussion at the Palais des Nations in Geneva to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racism, 2010.

19 March 2010