A member of the Satere Mawe tribe shoots at the goal YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

Why Governments Should Invest in Sports

Latin American and Caribbean countries spend about one-third as much as their European counterparts on sports programs with broad social goals. But, before increasing that investment, policymakers should commit to testing and evaluating various strategies to find out which ones actually work.

WASHINGTON, DC – As the World Cup unfolds, captivating soccer fans around the globe, the broad appeal of high-level sports is on full display. But the impact of sports extends far beyond major international events, as impressive they may be, to include far-reaching benefits for ordinary people.

Initiatives that encourage people to exercise regularly can help to reduce the incidence of strokes, cancer, and depression, resulting in higher productivity and lower health-care costs. These are important goals for a region like Latin America and the Caribbean, where one in four adults is obese – a trend that has worsened over the last decade.

Sports can also strengthen social relationships, by bringing together people from different backgrounds and creating a sense of shared purpose and identity. Moreover, they can provide a productive outlet for young people, keeping them focused and engaged and boosting their self-esteem, thereby reducing their vulnerability to harmful social influences. And they can promote qualities like perseverance, teamwork, and leadership – the kinds of soft skills employers seek in job candidates – while even supporting gender equality.

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