At the inaugural Laurent World Sports Awards in 2000, Nelson Mandela said, "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. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination."
Few embody the unifying power of sport more completely than the late statesman, who once appeared on the 1995 Rugby World Cup field to rousing chants of “Nelson! Nelson!” despite great tension then over his election as South Africa’s first black president.
As Mandela showed, sport can heal divisions and rally diverse people around a common cause. It also promotes healthy living and a host of positive values like discipline, teamwork and determination. It creates purpose and a sense of unity at individual, community and global levels, something I’ve personally witnessed growing up with sport and at my career with One.
Sport connects us to culture and tradition.
Basketball and martial arts (taekwondo) were my two main sports growing up. Basketball has over a century of history in the US, and martial arts such as taekwondo, wushu, karate and muay thai have roots in Asia dating back thousands of years. Sport is an integral part of culture and life, connecting us to our social history and values. Before sparring in taekwondo, bowing to your opponent, greeting them and getting ready to engage always reminded me of traditional values such as honour and respect. And I love being reminded of such values especially in a world today often preoccupied with the secular and material.
Sport unites nations.
Sport (as opposed to war or conflict) gives humans a positive arena to channel our energy and natural competitive spirit – it’s why the Olympic Games have endured to this day. Sport rallies nations, like when Joseph Schooling won Singapore’s first ever Olympic gold medal in the 100m butterfly at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, sending the entire country into a frenzy. Many Singaporeans like myself were in tears (of joy); we felt so proud and happy that Singapore had finally won Olympic gold.
With One’s diverse mix of athletes from East and West, and a global broadcast to over 150 countries, we see every day entire nations rallying behind their local heroes as they fight for national glory, be it the US’ Demetrious Johnson, China’s Xiong Jingnan, Singapore’s Angela Lee or Myanmar’s Aung La N Sang (who became Myanmar’s first world champion in any sport when he won the One Middleweight World Title in 2017). In fact, Aung La is so iconic in Myanmar that they erected a bronze statue of him in his hometown of Myitkyina!