Big Data can make sport “an overwhelming power for good”, says Ban Ki-moon

Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon has used his opening remarks to the SportAccord Summit in Gold Coast to say that sport can serve as an “overwhelming power for good in the world”.

The theme of this year’s Summit is Big Data, and Ban used the opportunity of his opening address to reinforce the connections between how data is used in sport and politics, emphasising that he had made data a key part of his political career, particularly his focus on sustainability and reducing carbon emissions. 

“To meet the goals of the UN, there is a need for measurement, so data is crucial to change the world,” he said. “Only with scientific statistics and with the evidence of scientific research can we make real progress on sustainable goals. Data allows us to evaluate our past and future. The same is true with sports. 

“People will ask, ‘what’s the point of all this data for sports? We just want to enjoy sports!’ But sports cannot be separated, it cannot be apart from the goals the UN has outlined.”

The revolution in data technology, allowing for the collection of granular statistics across all sporting events, was an opportunity not just to “help elite athletes train and recover, to develop new tactics” but also to “promote sport in new markets, engage young people, increase participation.”

Posing the question, “why does sport matter in the grand scheme of things?”, Ban concluded: “Sport is an overwhelming power for good in the world. There are many ways to promote peace but I have never seen a better way than sport. Sport can have a magic power to instantly raise passion and energy, it really makes people stand up, elevates their excitement, contributes to physical and mental health, is used for a vehicle for equality, sustainability, mutual respect and fair play.” 

Ban is currently the chair of the IOC’s ethics committee and the honorary president of the 2019 World Martial Art Masterships in his hometown of Cheongju, and noted that he took on such roles due to his belief that sport can play a key role in “improving the lives of millions of people around the world”.

The South Korean, who served as the eighth Secretary-General of the UN between 2007 and 2016, closed his address by noting that seeing North and South Korea united under one flag at last year’s Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang was “the most moving scene sport has provided” in his lifetime.