International Olympic Committee (IOC) Honorary President Jacques Rogge has visited a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan on his first mission as a Special Envoy of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General for Youth Refugees and Sport.
The 72-year-old Belgian was appointed to the role last April in New York when the IOC and the UN signed a historic agreement aimed at strengthening collaboration between the two organisations.
His first mission has taken him to Azraq, located in the desert 100 kilometres east of the Jordanian capital Amman.
The site is home to some 18,000 refugees fleeing the current conflict in neighbouring Syria.
The camp was opened in April and is run by the Jordanian authorities with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its humanitarian partners.
During the visit Rogge spent time with refugee families and youth while he also visited the site that will soon host a multi-sport playground financed by the IOC.
In addition to providing the facility, the IOC, together with local partners, says it will also implement a full programme for youngsters to play sports including football, volleyball, basketball, field hockey, and handball as well as taking part in the recreational programme already underway in the camp.
The facility and the programme will be designed to encourage girls to also participate.
Almost all children in the Azraq camp have experienced traumatic forms of violence and sport is considered a key component to their healing process.
The sports programme is scheduled to be operational in 2015 and aims to benefit over 2,000 young people and refugees per year.
"I am really honoured to have been appointed to this role and grateful to the UN Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] for the trust he put in me," said Rogge, replaced as IOC President by Thomas Bach in September last year after 12 years in the role.
"This first mission has been particularly moving and inspiring.
"Refugee populations are largely composed of young people and children and having talked to families today there is no doubt that leisure and physical activities can have a positive impact on their lives in disarray.
"Sport will improve their physical health, give these refugee youth a sense of enjoyment and hope, and bring structure to their daily routine.
"We cannot underestimate the important role of sport and I am proud to be here to see that these are not only words but a reality."
Rogge was accompanied on the visit by IOC member Prince Feisal Al Hussein, President of the Jordanian National Olympic Committee.
The IOC and the UNHCR have been working together since 2004 through its Giving is Winning campaign which aims to support young people around the world, particularly those in refugee camps, by donating thousands of items of clothing.
The campaign has already collected over 170,000 items of clothing, according to the IOC, which have reached refugees in 23 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
June 2014: IOC and United Nations to work more closely together after talks between Bach and Ban Ki-moon
April 2014: IOC and United Nations sign historic deal to strengthen ties and promote "peace through sport"
February 2014: UN secretary general to deliver opening address at IOC Session in Sochi
November 2013: IOC President reiterates values of Olympic Truce at United Nations ahead of Sochi 2014