The Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee
conceived a new programme called Olympic Aid in
preparation for the 1994 Winter Games. This initially
focused on raising money to support people in war-
torn countries and areas of distress, using Olympic
athletes as “ambassadors” to assist the fundraising
efforts. Norwegian speed skater Johann Olav Koss,
a four-time gold medal winner, took the assignment
to heart and challenged fellow athletes and the
public to donate money for each gold medal won.
An unprecedented $18 million poured in to fund
five projects in Bosnia, Eritrea, Guatemala, Afghani-
stan, and Lebanon. After the Winter Games, Olym-
pic Aid remained active, partnering with UNICEF
and raising $13 million around the Atlanta Summer
Games to support a vaccination programme in
Africa. This intervention and continuing fundraising
success around subsequent Olympic events enabled
Olympic Aid to become an NGO in its own right. In
2003, it adopted a new identity, Right To Play, with
Koss as president. This facilitated a decision to
branch out from Olympic sport and garner support
from a broader range of sources.
Right To Play uses unique sport and play-based
programmes to improve health, develop life skills,
and foster peace in some of the most disadvan-
taged areas of the world. It targets the most mar-
ginalised individuals including girls, people with dis-
abilities, children affected by HIV and AIDS, street
children, former child combatants and refugees.
Working in both humanitarian and development
contexts, Right To Play trains local community lead-
ers, teachers and coaches to deliver programmes in
23 countries affected by war, poverty, and disease
all over the developing world. It currently reaches
about 700,000 children and is aiming for a million
by 2012.
Right To Play’s approach draws on theories of behav-
iour change to help children and local leaders develop
life skills, learn important lessons about health, and
build stronger, safer communities. Its programmes
are tailored to the needs and assets of each commu-
nity served but generally seek to harness the power
of sport and play to develop:
• Essential life skills such as stress management,
assertive communication, decision making, and
• Habits of mind, skill, and knowledge that con-
tribute to positive change.
• Healthy attitudes that include self-esteem
and confidence, hope and optimism, empathy
and compassion, resisting peer-pressure and
• Knowledge of relevant issues such HIV and
AIDS, risk reduction behaviours, and the im-
pacts of stigma.
Right To Play has established a strong reputation
among governments around the world because of its
roots in the Olympic movement and the success of
its programmes. From 2004 to 2008 the organisation
served as Secretariat to the Sport for Development
and Peace International Working Group – a high-level
policy initiative mobilising 59 national governments
and key constituencies from UN agencies and civil
society. In this role, Right To Play developed and
launched policy recommendations for national
governments on how to incorporate sport as a tool
for development and peace into their national and
international policies and programmes. The recom-
mendations were endorsed by 38 governments at
the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games, and in
December 2008, the recommendations were formally
recognised by the United Nations in a resolution
passed by the General Assembly.
Right To Play: Youth and Economic Development through Sport
GUARDING THE GAME Preserving the Integrity of Sport
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