MOSCOW — Pole vaulting legend Sergey Bubka’s main policy in his manifesto to be the next president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is to get young people around the world enthused into taking up sport.The 49-year-old Ukrainian — one of six men vying to replace incumbent Jacques Rogge when he steps down on 10 September — quoted a line by former South African president Nelson Mandela to support his case.
“Nelson Mandela, a great man, said ‘Sport has the power to change lives’,” said Bubka, on the opening day of the world athletics championships in Moscow of which he is the head of the organising committee.
Bubka, a six-time outdoor world champion and holder still of both the outdoor and indoor world records, is passionate about luring the young away from what he sees as the dangers lurking both inside and outside the family home. “This has been a passion of mine for a long time. I formed the Sergey Bubka Sports Club in 1990 in Ukraine,” he said.
“Since then members from the club have won an Olympic medal and a world championship medal.
“The idea was that I wanted to help youngsters and not have them left on the streets where they could fall prey to bad people and become addicted to drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.”
Bubka, who broke the outdoor world record on 35 occasions and whose mark of 6.14 metres has stood since 1994, has now moved on from that to trying to motivate youngsters into sport.
“We must not lose a young generation, we must educate them through sports and exercise instead of playing on computers,” he said.
“These days diabetes and obesity touch much younger people, as do heart attacks. That is why exercise is the key. When you organise big sporting events it encourages young people to take up sport.
“Through a Youth Council and using social media we must connect with young people and instil Olympic values.
“The average age of viewers of sports these days is 50. That represents a gap between sports and the young generation. If we don’t engage with the young then we will lose them.”
Bubka, who for all his dominance of his event won just the one Olympic gold in 1988, said if he becomes president of the IOC — he would be the youngest in the history of the organisation — he would be the point man.
“The IOC would take the lead and involve governments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) on how to build a road map for the future,” he said.
“The best vision can be created when you have consultation between different bodies. From that you can pick out the best ideas.”
Bubka, who also believes less costly Olympic Games, citing London last year, are necessary and would allow the Olympic Movement to move into new territories, says he knew from personal experience how sport could change a young person’s life. “I came from a very simple and modest family,” he said.
“Sport opened doors for me. I started travelling abroad from 1980. I discovered that sport really broke down barriers. This too has been borne out by the Youth Olympic Games (Rogge’s brainchild and first held in Singapore in 2010).
“The young from all over the world come and they learn that the colour of your skin is not an issue, that different language is also not an issue and that religion is not either.” — AFP.
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