The positive impact of sports on society as a whole

It is well known that sports are a key pillar of modern society, and it is directly linked to the population’s physical and mental well-being.

Sports have a direct effect on societies on multiple levels, from supporting entire nations to vulnerable groups, children, and youth education. 

It can develop socialization, inclusion, or integration, which are catalysts for social cohesion. In its educational function, sports are an essential part of the development of young people. 

Sports are also a driver for public health, as a stimulant for the health and well-being of the population. 

The cultural purpose is also noteworthy, allowing everyone to recognize himself or herself with his or her territory. 

The ludic feature is another essential component, both from the point of view of informal physical activity and as an element of leisure.

The social aspect is one of the most important attributes of sports, allowing for the fight against exclusion, intolerance, and discrimination. Sports encourage inclusion, leaving no one out, whether because of physical or mental limitations.

Sports activity also represents a meaningful economic impact, with strong synergies in health and tourism. 

On May 5, 2003, the Council of the European Union issued a declaration recognizing the high social value of sport, especially among the young and disfavored population.


Sports for all

In addition, the European Union (EU), as well as other supranational institutions, defend sports by assuming that:

  • Practising sports is a right of every citizen;
  • It represents social, educational, and cultural essential values. It is a factor of inclusion, participation in social life, tolerance, acceptance of differences, and respect for rules;
  • Sports activity must be accessible to everyone, whatever their abilities or interests;
  • Physical activity for people with disabilities is of great importance and should be encouraged. In many ways, it brings direct benefits to rehabilitation, re-education, social integration, and individual fulfilment;
  • The EU Member States shall encourage voluntary sports activity, with the community's support, when appropriate, within the framework of its competencies.


Sports on the international agenda

Sports have been reinforcing their importance on the international political agendas, assuming a strategic role. For example, in the Agenda 2030, the UN General Assembly recognised sports activity as "an important enabler of sustainable development," highlighting "its promotion of tolerance and respect and contributions to the empowerment of women and young people, individuals and communities."

The so-called Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030 aims to help in this area. With the International Olympic Committee and the Organizing Committee of Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the UN aims to raise global awareness on the Sustainable Development Goals. The Tokyo 2020 Games Sustainability Plan was recently developed, featuring innovative solutions, efforts to address climate change, respect human rights, and fair labour business practices.

In this regard, the UN is also working with the International Federation of Football, FIFA, to promote women in leadership positions and make the most of sports for youth development and capacity building.


What connect us all

It must be emphasized that, for more than a century, sports have been seen as one of the most effective tools for integration and a unifying factor that mitigates all kinds of differences between people. This integration is also valid for populations at risk of social exclusion, such as the most deprived and vulnerable populations, children and teenagers, the elderly, people with disabilities, migrant populations in general and refugees in particular.    

As Europe is going through a refugee crisis, along with the so-called fifth wave of the pandemic, physical activity and sports, just like almost two years ago, will undoubtedly continue to help populations and countries to reach the end of this health crisis.