Safeguarding and promoting traditional games and sports – a cross-continent, inter-sectoral and public-private collaboration led by UNESCO

Sep 09, 2016 - 1:34 pm

August 2016 was a busy and exciting month for Brazil, who showed the world a great Olympics Games. Brazil had much more to offer – in fact, in the same month, traditional Brazilian sports and games were also shown to a project team who traveled all the way from China. From 16 to 24 August, a working group composed of experts from UNESCO and Tencent carried out an on-site data collection and documentation of traditional games in Brazil.  Dr Marielza Oliveira, Director of UNESCO Beijing Office and Representative to the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea, headed this research visit.

Traditional Brazilian games and sports, including footvolley, frescobol, Jongo, Capoeira, have been collected during this visit, with the support by UNESCO Office in Brasilia. The research visit is part of a global project “The Creation of an Open Digital Library on Traditional Games – Innovative Use of ICTs to Safeguard and Promote Indigenous and Local Knowledge for Learning, Development and the Rapprochement of Cultures,” implemented in close partnership with Tencent, who is applying innovative technologies to capture and disseminate information on traditional games.

It is in local communities around the world that the traditional games are taught, played, and passed on from generation to generation, carrying values of solidarity, diversity, fair-play, inclusion, and cultural awareness. In this project, UNESCO brings the players from different games and sports communities, as well as experts and the academia, to share the knowledge about the games and sports practiced by these communities, in order to preserve this knowledge and make it openly accessible in a global digital library. Tencent, as the biggest IT and internet company in China, offers the technology and resources to make this global database available to the world. 

Capoeira – a combination of dance, acrobatics and martial arts

“We are creating this library as a repository where communities can put in the description of their games, the rules of playing those games, the types of materials that are needed, so that new generations can take advantage and learn and practice the old traditions,” said Dr Oliveira during her interview with Xinhua News Agency, the biggest and most influential media organization in China. 

Speaking of the objectives of this project, Dr Oliveira made it clear that this project aims at “safeguarding and revitalizing traditional games and sports that different communities have.” She stressed, “With the idea of tradition, we are not only looking at the old ones, but also looking at the ones that are unique to different cultures, and created by different communities.” By sharing the games and traditions with the world, people from different cultures will be able to share good moments together and better understand one another.

Preparation meeting at the UNESCO Brasilia Office with Tencent team

Building upon UNESCO’s activities in promoting inclusive knowledge societies, create an International Network on Traditional Sports and Games, and promote and protect intangible cultural heritage, this pilot project utilizes ICTs to safeguard and promote traditional games and to bring together and disperse this rich knowledge. The project is facilitated by UNESCO Beijing Office and currently implemented in four pilot countries: Bangladesh, Mongolia, Brazil and Greece, with funding and technical support by Tencent Interactive Entertainment. 

Jongo – a game mixed of music and dances and always following the sounds of the drums, practiced at Jongo da Serrinha, an NGO based in Rio