I love this. Last week marked the first ever World Street Child Games held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The event brought together children living in poverty around the world for a week of Olympic-style athletic competition and “the chance to celebrate the right of all children to play and express themselves in a safe setting.”
What can I say-most of us take so much for granted: the food in our fridge, the roof over our heads, and the guaranteed bed at the end of the day, to name only a few easy items. And somehow, while lacking many of these basics regularly, these adolescents managed to build amazing athletic prowess, and to get themselves onto a world stage.
What a wonderful opportunity for those living on the margins to show us what it’s all about.
So this is what went down: the event, which took place from March 14-20th, hosted around 60 youth from all five continents aged 16 to 19, who competed in six Olympic-themed events including the 100m dash, the 100m hurdles, the 400m, the long jump, shot put, and the 4x 100m relay.
Competing teams hailed from Burundi, Brazil, Egypt, Great Britain, India, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, and the Philippines and represented their country with the help and support of private donors, grassroots organizations and companies donating funds to the cause.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these individuals to give confidence to their futures and have the chance to live out a dream through sport, and to connect. And connect they did.
The games focused not only on sports, (and a bit of the arts,) but, notably, it also included a model-UN style Congress held at the Copa Cabana Palace, where street-connected children had the opportunity to lead discussions based on the issues they face daily in their lives.
Why is this important in the realm of sport? Because when it comes time for the Olympics or World Cup Soccer, many of these kids are kicked out of the areas they call their homes in efforts made by politicians to ‘clean up the streets’ and make their hosting cities look pleasing to the eyes of the world that is watching them.
In light of this practice of rounding up street children in preparation for large sporting events, the outcome of the Congress was written down and will be presented to governments, the United Nations and to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) regarding the rights of vulnerable children around mega sporting events.
What’s to follow? More, more and more. The next Street Child world sporting match to take place will be in anticipation of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, in 2018.
Street Child World Cup will take place in association with Save the Children, and it will unite teams of former street children-both girls and boys- from across the world to play in a soccer tournament representing their country on a global stage.
While it is difficult to pinpoint an exact number, the UN estimates there are currently 150 million street-connected children worldwide, living on, working on or at risk of living on the streets.
Way to go, athletes- you inspire us. Congratulations and have a wonderful time in 2018!