Ex-Olympics chief Rogge visits young Syrian refugees in Jordan with message of hope
AZRAQ REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan, October 29 (UNHCR) - Former Olympics chief Jacques Rogge on Wednesday welcomed plans to build a youth sports complex in Jordan's Azraq Refugee Camp and said it would help Syrian children overcome the trauma of war and displacement.
Rogge, who was visiting Azraq in his role as UN Special Envoy for Refugee Youth and Sport, said that with children making up more than half of the camp's 14,300 residents, sport was the perfect way to relieve boredom and improve their well-being.
"Sport is ideal for young people, it will improve their health, but also their psychological welfare," said the former president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). "It teaches them to respect the rules, it integrates then into the mainstream society, it brings health, and it brings hope."
The UNHCR complex will be built with funding from the IOC. It will feature facilities and equipment for multiple sports, including football, basketball, volleyball and tennis. NGO partner CARE International will manage the facility and provide specialized coaching and instruction to the camp's children.
Crucially, the fenced playing areas will feature privacy blinds to encourage women and girls to use the facilities. Despite a willingness and interest, many of them are currently excluded from playing sports due to the lack of privacy at existing facilities.
Addressing the IOC delegation at a community centre in the camp, 16-year-old Muzoon said many of the children living in Azraq had suffered from violence during the conflict in Syria. "I believe children have rights, and one of those is the right to play," she said. "Playing sports will help these kids to overcome their troubles and just be kids again."
Having headed the global Olympic movement from 2001 to 2013, Rogge is now honorary IOC president. He was appointed as the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Youth Refugees and Sport last April, after the UN and IOC signed a collaboration agreement aimed at improving the lives of refugee children.
By Charlie Dunmore in Azraq Refugee Camp, Jordan