By Marlene Saint Martin
The rush of seeing Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce winning medals in three different editions of the Olympic Games has not faded as yet. During 17 days, we cheered while watching our favorite athletes aspire to Olympic glory in Rio 2016. Our Caribbean athletes, many of whom have already set their sight in the next Olympic Games, have gone home with 26 medals. Jamaica and Cuba led the Caribbean countries in Rio 2016 with 11 medals each. Also, the sporting events in athletics remain a source of pride for the Caribbean as 62 percent of their medals were won in track and field competitions.
Not all of us have the talent and discipline to be Usain Bolt. Still, the potential impact of sports in our lives is just as relevant. In the Declaration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations (UN) recognizes sports as a tool for development. Here at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), we believe that sports promote skills such as communication, conflict resolution, discipline, respect, self-development, and teamwork. Stimulating these skills in our youth enhances development objectives such as school attainment, health, and peace. Furthermore, initiatives and projects that encourage the practice of sports have shown to have impacts on the communities where they operate by preventing violence and favoring social inclusion.
In her previous blog post for Caribbean DevTrends, Heather Sutton discussed how crime and violence are issues of concern for policy makers and citizens in the Caribbean. How can the Caribbean people and their authorities tackle these issues? While sports might not be the only needed response, they represent a cost-effective solution that can improve lives in schools, homes, jobs and communities. Most Caribbean countries have implemented public policies that promote sports from an early age. However, implementing sports as a public policy requires the support of everybody.
When you are deciding whether to stay home or go out to play some sport with your friends, not only think about what Usain Bolt would do… think about the skills you and your friends will be acquiring and how they can translate in your lives. Furthermore, think about your health and the potential money you might save by preventing an illness. Stay fit to stay safe and encourage others to follow your lead, especially the little ones!