Racism and sport' is the theme of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today (March 21). At a special event in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Office will highlight the problem of racism at sporting events together with football experts. As the Human Rights Council noted in September 2012: “Despite the immense potential of sport in promoting tolerance, racism in sport -both by fans and sports people- is still a serious problem.” Referencing the Olympic spirit requiring human understanding, tolerance, fair play and solidarity, the Council called for an urgent fight against racism in sport.
March 21 is a day of great significance in the history of the struggle to end apartheid, which segregated people on the basis of race and which denied people of colour their basic human rights. On that day in 1960, South African police opened fire on a peaceful protest against South Africa’s laws which restricted the movement of coloured people in white areas. After the Sharpeville massacre, the United Nations Security Council called on the government of South Africa to abandon apartheid and to initiate measures aimed at generating racial harmony based on equality instead. They also proclaimed March 21 as the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination to be commemorated annually.