VANCOUVER, British Columbia—Former Olympic athletes, international humanitarian leaders, and the private sector have come to the Vancouver games in full support of Right To Play, an nongovernmental organization (NGO) with a mission to teach life skills to children in disadvantaged countries by engaging them through sport.
Shortly after moving to Canada in 2000, former Norwegian four-time gold Olympic medalist Johann Olav Koss founded Right To Play with the express purpose of teaching children through play.
Right To Play’s temporary home during the Olympics is in a pavilion called World Of Play at Concord Place in Vancouver’s False Creek waterfront area. Pictorial displays, multimedia, and a games room for kids educate 10,000 visitors a day about Right To Play’s work in 23 countries.
“It's been a great way to kind of achieve things,” says Koss.
Headquartered in Toronto, Right To Play has more than 350 athlete-ambassadors from 40 countries, some of whom have been busy during Vancouver 2010 engaging and inspiring school children in Surrey as part of a partnership with Surrey city government.
Right To Play, previously called Olympic Aid, is a legacy of the organizing committee of the 1994 Lillehammer games. Koss was lead ambassador back then when he donated his medal winnings and challenged fellow athletes and the public to contribute.
An unprecedented $18 million was raised, which was used to support developmental aid projects in Sarajevo, Eritrea, Guatemala, Afghanistan, and Lebanon.
“That was an amazing, life-changing experience for me, and after the games I was then off to continue the legacy of Olympic Aid to other, future games,” says Koss.