Sport is transformative and can contribute to achieving the UN (United Nations) 2030 Agenda: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and improve the quality of life of people living in cities. The UN 2030 Agenda’s commitment to realising the SDGs for all and leaving no one behind runs in parallel to the Olympic Games vision of “building a better world through sport.”  The Olympism 365 strategy which “aims to strengthen the role of sport as an important enabler of the SDGs” brings significant value to UN-Habitat’s SDG Cities Global Initiative, which aims to support 1000 cities worldwide to accelerate their implementation of SDGs and improve quality of life for a billion urban dwellers. The collaboration of UN-Habitat and IOC will harness sport as a driver for sustainable development in cities.
The initiative focuses on mainstreaming sport, physical activity, and active recreation in UN Habitat’s SDG Cities initiative, and in doing so, contribute to the focus of Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the IOC’s Olympism365 centred on the role of sport as a tool for inclusive sustainable development. SDG Cities provides a systematic global approach to accelerate the achievement of SDGs in cities and urban areas through collaborative action. The initiative has a particular focus on utilising sport, physical activity and active recreation as a catalyst to accelerate the achievement of SDG 3 focused on good health and wellbeing, SDG 5 on gender equality, SDG 10 on reducing inequalities within and among countries, SDG 11 on making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe and resilient SDG 13 on climate action, SDG 16 on Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions and SDG 17 on Partnerships for the Goals.
The International Olympic Committee Framework
The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) strategy “Olympism365” highlights the importance of sport and Olympism as an enabler for SDGs 365 days of the year, beyond the impacts of the Games and in host territories. The objectives of the strategy are to ensure that more people, from more diverse backgrounds, benefit from participating in community sport programmes and can access Olympism “365 days a year”; that the value and essential services provided by safe, accessible and sustainable community sport organisations are better recognised; and that there is more impactful collaboration between the sports movement, the health and social development sectors, and for-purpose businesses where there is shared value.
The priorities of the Strategy are to contribute to improved health and more active communities; more equitable and inclusive communities; more peaceful and safer communities; and improved education and livelihoods pathway, with delivering impact in urban settings and promoting urban sport and physical activity as a catalyst for sustainable development important focus areas. To deliver this objective the following key principles are embedded across all Olympism365 collaboration and delivery mechanisms in support of leaving no one behind:
- Solidarity: Working collectively under the principle of “stronger together” to create a universal and meaningful response that prioritises contexts and communities where need is greatest.
- Safeguarding: Promoting safe sport and development opportunities, ensuring programmes are free from all forms of harassment and abuse, and ensuring the safety and well-being of all participants.
- Equality and inclusion: Striving to ensure that opportunities are accessible to all, inclusive and free from any form of discrimination.
- Sustainability: Organising and delivering programmes in a way that promotes sustainable environmental, economic, and social development.
- Human rights: Embedding a rights-based approach in the organisation and delivery of programmes and promoting sport as a human right and ensuring every individual has the possibility to practise sport.
The UN Framework
Cities and urban areas accommodate over 55% of the world’s population. By 2050, this is expected to be rise to more than 70%. It is widely recognised that around two thirds of the SDG targets and indicators have an urban dimension. Therefore, it is no surprise that the “battle for sustainable development will be won or lost in cities.” The UN’s New Urban Agenda, endorsed by all 193 UN Member States underscores SDG 11; Make Cities and human settlements inclusive, safe resilient and sustainable, and highlights the critical role of cities for the acceleration of SDGs. It indicates “Cities can be massive agents of positive change, if they are well-planned, built and governed”.
UN-Habitat's SDG Cities Global Initiative provides a systematic approach to accelerate the SDGs in cities. Data > Strategic Planning > Effective Local Institutions > Investment for Impact.
Working at a significant scale and across cities in least developed, developing, and developed countries, it both provides both an effective platform to promote equitable access and opportunity to sport, physical activity and active recreation for all, including those who are disadvantaged, poor and marginalized, and to ensure more people benefit from accessing sport. This collaboration aims to mainstream urban sport, physical activity, and active recreation within UN-Habitat's SDG Cities systematic approach. The partnership will support the active role of sport communities in this process, including in mapping out the existence of sport and recreation amenities and identifying communities that lack access, integrating sport into strategic plans and municipal functions and mobilising investment for sports amenities and programmes that promote Olympism 365, ensuring that no one and no place is left behind. By doing so, it aligns with the principles of Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the IOC's Olympism365, which emphasize sport's role in fostering inclusive sustainable development.
In conclusion, through joining IOC’s efforts to promote sustainable development within the framework of Olympism365 and UN-Habitat's efforts to promote sustainable cities through the SDG Cities Initiative, sport, physical activity, and active recreation will be mainstreamed in processes of urban data collection, strategic planning, institutional development, and SDG related investment. This will result in a synergy where cities become thriving environments for the contributions sport and active recreation can make as driving forces to increase health and quality of life, reduce gender and social inequality, and promote environmental sustainability and peace in cities.