SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Opinion

Sports is an agent of learning, understanding

I recently read the SportsBusiness Journal article titled “Is sports an ambassador for peace?”

I really enjoyed it mainly because it is what I do each and every day. I am lucky enough to be the director of sports for People to People, located in Spokane, Wash.

We were founded by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. Our primary mission is to help foster peace, through international understanding and interaction. I am fortunate enough to do it through the sports avenue. President Bush serves as our honorary chairman.

Currently, we transport approximately 2,400 athletes to Amsterdam each summer to participate in the Youth Friendship Games. Athletes participate in a three- to four-day training camp in their respective sport, followed by some international competition. We also plan several local cultural activities, as well as interaction with the local youth. Our hope is that by experiencing a different culture, as well as interacting with athletes from different cultures/countries, our American youth will get a better understanding of the world and the different cultures that exist.

I also believe this experience gives them a better understanding of how fortunate we are in the USA, with our cultural conditions.

In my opinion, sport is the ultimate reality show. Sports teach us how to win, lose, make sacrifices, work hard to achieve a goal, work as a team, etc. I don’t know how many coaches and athletes I have spoken with who have mentioned how much sports taught them about life, that school or other guiding principles could not.

I am currently developing additional sports programs around the world. We are looking at adding another location in Europe, as well as the Caribbean. As I continue to develop programs I am interested in adding Asia and South America as well. I believe the Olympics still carry out this mission. I understand it is more of a business now; however, the true root of sports and the Olympic mission is to foster peace and interact. What Joey Cheek, Jim Cain and Dean Bonham have done or are doing serves the entire sports world by making it a better place!

- Jeff Geldien
Spokane, Wash.

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