Every year, cities around the world send children, 11 to 15 years of age, to the International Children's Games to promote peace through sport.
The Games originated in June 1968 at Celje, Yugosalvia through the vision and efforts of Slovenian sports instructor Metod Klemenc. "My childhood suffered from the Sescond World War. It destroyed my family. Since I -- within my possibilities -- wanted to create a better world based on friendship, sport seemed to be one of the best means to bring together young people from different countries. Therefore you need will power and friends who are enthusiastic about sport, and who are willing to give up their spare time."
Since that time, 30 towns in 21 nations have organized 44 Games (41 Summer and 3 Winter Games). Over 34,000 children have participated with delegations from 350 towns in 74 countries.
In 2006, the International Olympic Committee recognized the ICG as an affiliated organization.
"This was such a fantastic experience for our children that it is really quite difficult to put it into words ... The Asahi Judo Club's parents sent kids to Iceland, and welcomed home young adults," commented Mark Burgess, a judo sensei who coached for the Games in Reykjavik last year.
Nicholas, who competed in the Games as a runner, said that "one special part of this experience that I will never forget was meeting so many great people and making so many new friends, including a team of athletes from Kenya. These weary athletes showed up to our hostel after more than 30 hours of traveling. Most of their luggage had been lost en route but they were still the happiest, friendliest, most caring team I've ever met. It was a great lesson about how a positive attitude can really make a difference in your life and even influence those around you. I realize that if I hadn't gotten the opportunity to participate in ICG then I would never have met those great people."
Since 2000, I have attended 4 Games as the organizer and leader of the Kitchener team in conjunction with representatives from the Kitchener-Waterloo Sports Council and various local youth sport clubs.
This has been an emotional experience for me as a life-long promoter of peace. Meeting people from many cultures has allowed me to make many friends, and has given me an insight that is not possible to achieve through reading and film. It has helped me to promote understanding of others.
To learn more about the ICG visit <www.icg.com>.
John Cooper is Co-ordinator of Athletics, City of Kitchener. He is writing in his personal capacity as an ICG uspporter.