California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) virtually partnered with international guests on April 22 to stream the Youth Summit for Peace, Diplomacy and Human Rights. The summit featured faculty from the law and international relations department at Anahuac Mayab University in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, as well as Colombian writer and activist Juan Carlos Torres Cuellar. Ekaterina Zagladina – president of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates – opened the ceremony.
Throughout the webinar series, international guests were invited to speak on topics surrounding sports, culture, diplomacy and building peace through a gendered and human rights perspective. Students were allowed to engage in a public dialogue, and CSUMB provided the opportunity for Otters to join through the education abroad program.
Varvara Gracheva, a Russian tennis player, spoke with the panel on participating in international sports, the benefits of traveling and the essential need for global communication. Gracheva brought up playing against opponents hailing from different countries, but noted the importance of keeping integrity and respect for each other and the sport.
When she works with a team that has different players from Russia, they have the mindset of bettering themselves and working together to achieve the goal of winning. While the game is competitive in nature, Gracheva prioritizes human decency over adding statistics to her record.
“All of our discipline is based around what we want to achieve,” Gracheva said. “Our goal is to help someone, even on the court. This sport teaches young adults how to respect each other, the public, the referee and not to harm anybody.”
No matter what team one is rooting for, fans share a commonality between emotions and communication. Communication can come in several forms of gestures from a smile, a handshake or engaging in spoken dialogue. Gracheva finds solidarity in sports – leaving political and social worries behind for a brief moment – and she believes fans often find themselves experiencing the same sense of relief and joy it delivers her.
Panelist Nelly Ivette Morales Ojeda brought up previous sports diplomacy issues encountered back in the ‘80s when the U.S. boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow, Russia. In response to Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, over 65 countries pulled out of the Olympics, but another 80 sent athletes to perform. While the response was warranted by some, Ojeda finds mixing sports and politics to be a diplomacy disaster, leaving those who’ve spent countless hours training finding themselves cheated.
“This was really hard for many athletes who have been preparing for a long time, and for many this was their only opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games,” Ojeda said. “They said goodbye to it. I don’t think we should improperly mix politics and sports.”
Viewing how sports can impact different cultures and provide cultural inclusion is also important. Sports can cover generational differences, and can allow for the inclusion of different genders – something the panel hopes to see more of in the future. Inclusion moving past sports into the arts is something that is becoming more accepted, but still needs additional work in certain areas of the world.
“We need to see culture as a flowing river,” Ojeda said, “not as standing water.”