Doha GOALS has instituted number of impressive initiatives in its short history, including a group taking action against racism in athletics, a state-of-the-art prosthetics program championed by Paralympic athletes and a program which builds sporting pitches and fields in disadvantaged communities.
Now, the Doha GOALS Forum is coming to a slightly larger stage: Los Angeles, California. The summit will take place in partnership with and alongside the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in the City of Angels, from July 25-27, 2015.
While Doha GOALS and the Special Olympics may seem at first blush like strange bedfellows, the two organizations have a lot in common. Both believe in the transformative power of sport, and hinge on the ability of athletics to spur change across the spectrum of humanity.
In a press release announcing the partnership, Doha GOALS executive director Sheikh Faisal bin Mubarak al-Thani had this to say: “This year, we have chosen to partner with the Special Olympics, the world’s most wide-reaching organization focusing on sport for development, especially to the most marginalized people on earth – people with intellectual disabilities. Our partnership will go beyond a presence at the World Games, and will cover initiatives to last year-round to promote sport as a tool for creating a more inclusive society.”
A “more inclusive society” has been the ultimate goal of Doha GOALS since its inception, and each of its initiatives reflect that ideal. The first and most wide-reaching of the initiatives is the Doha GOALS Sports Fields Initiative, which aims to build and provide free access to sports facilities in communities across the globe. The first contracts have been signed with cities as varied as Port Gentil, Gabon; Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan; and Nablus, Palestine. Relationships with local NGOs and community organizations will ensure that the fields are properly overseen and maintained.
In association with the Katarina Witt Foundation, Doha GOALS’ prosthetics program exists with the hope that any physically impaired child around the world will have access to quality prosthetics. Through these prosthetics the child will have a chance to get involved with athletics and emulate success stories like US Open Wheelchair Tennis champion Stephane Houdet, who is an ambassador of the program.
The Global Watch Initiative is an aggressive and ambitious program to fight racism in athletics, from the mind of South African activist Tokyo Sexwale. Intended to “put sport on the leading edge of societal equality and competitive fairness,” the Global Watch Initiative wants to bring together influencers like Al Gore and Oprah Winfrey -- both already on board -- as well as community groups to converge top-down efforts with grassroots movements to root out racism in sport. Like all of their initiatives, this elimination of prejudice in sport is done in the hopes that, eventually, its smear will be removed from larger society.
For a summit that has flown largely under the international radar, Doha GOALS has attracted some 5,000 participants from 70 different nations, from activist high schoolers to former athletes to leaders of industry. Again organized by Richard Attias & Associates, this year’s edition in Los Angeles promises to bring an entirely new energy to proceedings. Here’s to hoping it won’t lose its important message in the transition to Hollywood.