Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, Head of Sustainability, Access Bank Plc

Follow Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan

View Profile

Subjects of Interest

  • Corporate Communications
  • Social Development
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable Development

The power of sports in enabling sustainable development 08 Feb 2024

Sports possess a profound ability to captivate hearts, dismantle barriers, and instill lessons that extend far beyond the confines of the playing field. In a world that celebrates diversity, sports represent a universal language that transcends cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic boundaries. This power to unite communities and empower individuals serves as a foundational force for fostering positive change on a global scale.

Sports play a pivotal role in fostering development and peace by actively promoting values such as tolerance and respect. With the inclusive nature of sports, individuals from diverse backgrounds come together to compete and collaborate. In team sports, for example, athletes learn the importance of cooperation, mutual understanding, and respecting the skills and contributions of teammates irrespective of their cultural or ethnic background. These experiences on the field translate into real-world scenarios, contributing to a more harmonious and tolerant society.

The empowerment of women through sports is another sphere of advancing sustainable development. Over the years, the visibility and recognition of women in sports have increased, challenging traditional gender norms. Women athletes serve as powerful role models, breaking down stereotypes and inspiring others to pursue their passions without gender-based limitations. Again, this empowerment extends beyond the playing field, influencing societal attitudes and contributing to a more equitable distribution of opportunities and resources.

In the case of young people, engagement in sports inculcates crucial life skills such as leadership, teamwork, and discipline. Organised sports programmes often include educational components that address issues like health and nutrition, encouraging a holistic development approach. By participating in sports, young individuals not only enhance their physical well-being but also acquire essential knowledge and skills that can positively impact their academic performance and overall personal growth.

Sports contribute significantly to health objectives by encouraging an active lifestyle. Regular physical activity, as promoted through sports participation, is associated with improved cardiovascular health, reduced obesity rates, and enhanced mental well-being. Sports serve as a powerful tool in the global fight against sedentary lifestyles, contributing to the prevention of various health issues and promoting overall wellness.

In the realm of education, sports provide valuable opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. Athletes often develop qualities such as time management, goal setting, and resilience, which are transferable skills crucial for academic success. Moreover, sports programmes can be used as a means to promote educational initiatives, fostering a positive learning environment and encouraging academic achievement.

Sports play a crucial role in social inclusion objectives by creating spaces where individuals from diverse backgrounds can come together, breaking down social barriers. Through sports, communities build connections, share experiences, and develop a sense of belonging. This inclusive environment helps challenge prejudices and discrimination, fostering a society where diversity is celebrated and embraced.

Sport, however, still faces many challenges to the fulfillment of its true potential. One prominent issue lies in the prevalence of doping, which undermines the spirit of fair competition and tarnishes the integrity of various sports. Despite stringent anti-doping measures, some athletes continue to resort to performance-enhancing substances, posing a significant threat to the credibility of sports events.

Another prevailing challenge confronting the sports landscape is the persistent issue of corruption. Corruption within sports organisations and governing bodies erodes the integrity of competitions, tarnishing the essence of fair play and sportsmanship. Many athletes, particularly those from underprivileged backgrounds, lack access to proper training facilities, coaching, and financial support. This imbalance not only hinders the development of talent but also perpetuates disparities in the representation of different demographics in various sports.

In addition to these issues, the commercialisation of sports has raised concerns about prioritising profit over the well-being of athletes. Athletes may face intense pressure to perform at the highest level, leading to physical and mental health issues. Instances of doping, match-fixing, and the excessive pressure placed on athletes to perform at any cost cast shadows over the genuine spirit of competition. The commercialisation of sports, while contributing to their global popularity, has also led to concerns about prioritising profit over the welfare of athletes. The emphasis on lucrative broadcasting deals, sponsorships, and endorsements sometimes overshadows the importance of promoting athlete welfare and long-term sustainability.

Moreover, discrimination and inequality persist in sports, with certain groups facing barriers to entry and advancement. Gender disparities, racial bias, and prejudice against athletes are challenges that need to be addressed to create a truly inclusive and diverse sporting landscape.

The global nature of sports also brings about geopolitical challenges. Political tensions and conflicts can spill over into the realm of sports, affecting the participation of nations and the hosting of international events. Ensuring that sports remain a platform for unity and diplomacy rather than a source of division is an ongoing challenge that requires careful navigation.

Despite these challenges, the vast positive power and passion of sport will continue to bring people together, promoting a more inclusive and peaceful world through its universal values and principles. Historically, sport has played a vital role in all societies and functioned as a strong communication platform that can be used to promote a culture of peace. It is, and will continue to be, one of the most cost-effective and versatile tools to promote United Nations values and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, a premier annual sporting event sponsored by Access Bank, aims at providing strategic support to sports and fostering a culture of healthy, active living through fitness and exercise. It also provides strategic support for sports while promoting healthy and active living through fitness and exercise. As a gold-labelled race recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), the marathon has become a global attraction, drawing participants worldwide since its inception in 2016.

The Access Bank Lagos City Marathon has attracted participants from around the globe, converging in Lagos to engage in a remarkable showcase of athleticism. Notably, renowned athletes such as John Cheruiyot Korir, Paul Malakwen Kosgei, and Dieudonné Disi have emerged as winners in previous editions, contributing to the event's growing prestige and global recognition.

Over the course of eight consecutive years as the title sponsor, Access Bank has not only propelled the marathon to unparalleled heights on the global stage but has also ingrained principles of sustainability deep within the event's essence. Far beyond being merely a race, this marathon serves as a symbol of transformative and sustainable change, directing participants towards a healthier, wealthier, and happier life. Beyond the finish line, it becomes a platform for collective well-being, weaving together threads of health, education, and environmental responsibility.

At the heart of this marathon lies a subtle yet impactful initiative – free HIV testing and counseling programme for participants. This initiative shifts the focus from simply crossing the finish line to breaking barriers to health. Condoms and information, education, and communication materials are distributed, forming a protective shield against the spread of HIV. Those identified with reactive cases are referred for further care, transforming the marathon into a potent catalyst for health awareness.

The marathon seamlessly integrates sustainable waste pickup, exemplified by the Annual Big City Marathon (ABLCM), thereby elevating the event into a responsible celebration. Discarded cups and wrappers find a meaningful second life, ensuring that the streets not only serve as a racecourse but also stand as a pristine, sustainable pathway for the community at large.

Join us in this extraordinary journey where every step taken symbolises athletic achievement while also contributing to a healthier, safer, and more sustainable future. #findyourfeat with Access.

Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan is Head, Group Sustainability, Access Holdings Plc.