Kirsty Coventry
Kirsty Coventry at the International Sports Innovation Conference in Dubai. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Nelson Mandela used sport as a catalyst for tolerance and unity when South Africa were still fighting the after-effects of the apartheid era, according to Kirsty Coventry, Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation in Zimbabwe and Africa’s most decorated Olympian with seven medals.

Speaking at the International Sports Creativity Conference at the Hilton Al Habtoor on Monday, Coventry raked the example of the then South African President whose effort to unify the country when the Springboks lifted the Rugby World Cup trophy at home in 1995 is talked in glowing terms. “This time also, South Africa had a black captain in Siya Kolisi when they won the title in Japan,” she said.

“Sport is all about friendly antagonism where all the animosity is shrugged off at the end of contest,” said Daniela Bas, Director of Social Policy and Development of United Nations in the opening session titled ‘Sports Language of Tolerance’.

The daylong conference had experts from different fields deliberating on the idea of tolerance and peace through sport. The first session ‘Sports Language of Tolerance’ saw Bas in conversation with Mohammad Rashwan, Olympic medallist & role model in Sports Ethics from Egypt, while the second session ‘Sports Diplomacy’ had Coventry and Tunisian Sports Minister Sonya Bin Al Shaikh in conversation.

Carl Lewis, the legendary athlete, delivered the keynote address and regaled the audience in the closing session, aptly titled “Champion Experience.”