At Dubai International Sports Convention, Kofi Annan Challenges Africa, World

I've never been to Dubai, so it's easy for me to imagine that the city, itself, doesn't actually exist. In my mind, Dubai is just a magical desert oasis, like Las Vegas, if it were run by the 20 richest men in the world and not, presumably, the mob. ↵

↵It turns out, not only is Dubai real, but it's hosting the SportsAccord International Convention this week, with more than 1,500 executives and officials from Olympic and international federations around the world invited to attend. ↵

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↵Per the AP, the convention is slated to cover a wide variety of issues, from the funding of sports federations to where big sporting events will take place in the future. The long and short of it, so it seems, is that Dubai is looking into bidding for the 2020 Olympics, with Qatar – another emerging player in the region – hoping to bid on the 2022 World Cup. Entertaining nearly all the major players in the world of international sports surely can't hurt their chances down the line. ↵

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↵⇥Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Sunday said Dubai's sports infrastructure had made it a "top destination on the global sports calendar" and said the city has "a lot to offer" to the Olympic movement. ↵⇥

↵⇥Mohammed said Dubai continues to evaluate the "cost and benefits" of a bid," insisting that the process alone will help authorities "identify the strengths and weaknesses of our transportation systems, our tourism facilities, our sports venues and other vital infrastructure." ↵⇥

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↵The event will be a who's who of names, including officials from the next three Olympics – in London, Sochi and Rio – and will feature speeches from FIFA president Sepp Blatter and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. ↵

↵In advance of his speech, Annan penned an op-ed for The Guardian, talking about how the World Cup is Africa's chance to show that it's moved on from its tense, violent ways. ↵

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↵⇥I am convinced that this World Cup has…potential to rebuild fractured relationships, both within and outside Africa. I am equally convinced that it will do much to puncture the prejudices that, for many, unfortunately continue to define the image of the continent. The cup is a tremendous opportunity for Africa to show how, out of the headlines, it has changed for the better. There are, of course, countries where problems, conflicts and abuses have worsened. But these are the minority. There are many more where democracy and human rights have taken root, governance has improved, civil society has blossomed and opportunities are being extended to ever larger segments of the population. ↵
↵So there's a sense of Annan's mantra for his speech in Dubai, and what message he and other African leaders will be promoting in the next 50 days. In addition, the most lasting point of Annan's speech may have come from a question he poses not just to Africa, but to the entire world: "If an event like the World Cup can bring so many of us together, why do we drift apart as soon as it is over?" ↵
↵⇥Why do the principles of humanity so beautifully enshrined in the Olympic Charter merely seem to apply to the way we play, run and swim against each other, and not the way we do business or politics? ↵
↵From World Cup to world peace. Who knows, maybe Dubai is a magical land, after all.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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