August 14: Honoring Traditional Sports and Games worldwide

LAHORE-Sports, culture and tradition; every year the global community comes together to commemorate all three on the International Day of Traditional Sports and Games. From festivals to seminars on the 14th of August, celebrations are held universally to recognize the importance of the promotion and safeguarding of traditional sports and games.
Traditional sports and games hold a special place in the hearts of communities worldwide, not only as a source of recreation but also as a means of cultural preservation. Whilst offering a unique window into the customs, values, and history of various societies; they carry with them a sense of identity and continuity that can strengthen the bond between generations.
In an increasingly interconnected world, preserving cultural heritage has become a paramount concern. The International Council of Traditional Sports and Games (ICTSG) stands as a shining example of global collaboration to safeguard these precious legacies. Founded by the UNESCO and Member States, ICTSG has emerged as a leading advocate for the promotion and celebration of traditional sports and games.  One of the hallmark events championed by the council is the International Day of Traditional Sports and Games, observed annually on the 14th of August. The International Council of Traditional Sports and Games was founded with a noble mission: to uphold the essence of traditional sports and games while fostering cultural diversity, unity, and understanding. 
Khalil Ahmed Khan, the President, an esteemed advocate for cultural heritage preservation, played a pivotal role in establishing the council. Recognizing the universal appeal of traditional sports and games, Khan envisioned an organization that would transcend borders, languages, and backgrounds to bring together people in the spirit of camaraderie.
The 14th of August marks an important occasion for enthusiasts of traditional sports and games around the world. The International Day of Traditional Sports and Games is a momentous celebration aimed at recognizing the inherent value of these activities in fostering cultural exchange, promoting physical activity, and preserving ancestral knowledge. This day offers an opportunity for individuals of all ages to connect with their roots, learn about diverse cultures, and engage in activities that have been passed down through generations.
In her written message on the occasion of this International Day, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO, Gabriela Ramos said, “The International Day of Traditional Sports and Games is an important occasion to celebrate culture, heritage, diversity, unity, and the power of sport. Traditional Sports and Games reflect the histories, roots, and identities of communities across the world. They show what makes us unique and the shared values that unite us.” She further said, “As the United Nations’ lead agency for sport and physical education, UNESCO is committed to protecting and promoting Traditional Sports and Games. We recognize the value of preserving unique cultural traditions that benefit future generations.”
Khalil Ahmed Khan, President of the Council, also reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to their mission of preserving traditional sports and games and cultural heritage. He said, “The Council has illuminated the path toward preserving our cultural heritage and promoting global unity. Through initiatives such as the International Day of Traditional Sports and Games, it has demonstrated the power of traditional activities in bridging gaps and strengthening ties. As we celebrate the 14th of August each year, let us remember the significance of traditional sports and games in shaping our world’s rich tapestry of cultures and traditions.”
“The International Day of Traditional Sports and Games is an important occasion that provides a unique opportunity to celebrate and promote the cultural heritage of various communities through sports and games. By organizing activities on this day, we can help preserve the traditional values, customs, and skills that have been passed down from generation to generation. Moreover, such activities can foster social cohesion and promote mutual understanding, respect, and tolerance among individuals from different backgrounds. Therefore, it is essential that we come together and organize meaningful events that honor the spirit of this day and help raise awareness of the importance of traditional sports and games. Solet’s unite our efforts and take action to make this day a memorable one for all those who love and cherish traditional sports and games.”
The relevance of sport as an “important partner” for sustainable development and its “growing contribution to development and peace through tolerance and respect” is recognized by the United Nations (UN) in the era of Millennium Development Goals from 2000 to 2015 and now with Sustainable Development Goals from 2015 to 2030. Thus paragraph 37 of “Transforming our World: The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” reads: “Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.” 
In 2018, ICTSG was mandated by UNESCO and its member states as the official platform for providing guidance expertise to Member States. Working proactively and creatively to identify and resolve issues of common interest remains a key responsibility of ICTSG.
The ICTSG aims to safeguard historical, artistic, cultural and traditional practices at the global level. The organization is committed to preserving cultural diversity, respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and safeguarding their heritage through participation in development processes in order to maintain harmony between hosts and priority communities.
The ICTSG further aims to undertake endeavours advocating and raising awareness in relation to the cultural diversity and respect of cultural identity within the context of new issues and challenges in a globalized world, where values, knowledge, skills and behaviour are in constant change. It deals directly with the Governments through their respective ministries.
ICTSG shall be the exclusive and independent body to oversee governance, administration and development of traditional sports and games globally and its primary aim shall be the preservation, promotion and development of traditional, cultural and community values between all stakeholders involved; keeping into consideration underlying objectives such as promotion of gender equality, third world country development and safeguarding cultural heritage through sport traditions.
ICTSG is also the proprietor of the “World Traditional Sports and Games” in which teams representing all the Member States of ICTSG will be participating. ICTSG’s initiative to organize TSG Events is part of the programme for the Safeguarding and Promotion of TSG which aims to ensure that traditional sports and games form an integral part of cultural development on a multilayer approach, thus reinforcing the implementation of United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030.
With the rise in globalization, each country serves an exclusive role in the world. The different cultures of each country are an extremely important markers of the uniqueness of the country. ICTSG seeks to preserve and enhance the varying cultures by promoting the traditional sports of many countries.
Keeping in mind the UNESCO’s mission is to safeguard, promote and develop Traditional Sports and Games and ensure that they form an integral part of national and international cultural developments. It is, therefore, pertinent that the Member States find appropriate mechanisms for sharing information about Traditional Sports and Games and their efforts to preserve and protect them. 
“The diversity of physical education, physical activity and sport is a basic feature of their value and appeal. Traditional and indigenous games, dances and sports, also in their modern and emerging forms, express the world’s rich cultural heritage and must be protected and promoted.” 
The mass media are required to present and promote traditional sports and games appropriately, given their importance and values. Traditional sports and games contribute to the world heritage of sports culture. Research, preservation, and promotion of traditional sports and games must be at the center of a global policy on culture and sport.
The research into traditional sports and games and their contribution to the knowledge of the various cultures and mankind must be intensified, broadened out, and supported by governmental and non-governmental organizations. The effort to conserve dying and bring back lost traditional and indigenous sports and games for the future generation by museum presentation has to be supported.
Traditional sports and games should be incorporated, introduced, and promoted in the work of schools, communities, institutions, and organizations both governmental and non-governmental. Traditional sports and games have their regulations and standards with no need for globalization or standardization. For their further development, due attention should be given to their values, originality, and the needs of those practicing them. They should be protected from any kind of commercialization that affects the cultural heritage and values of traditional sports and games.

Azhar Khan is an accomplished senior sports journalist with extensive experience in the field. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @azharmasood786

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