Lifestyle | 27 June 2024

“You can only gain from celebrating diversity” – Colin Jackson CBE on how sport wins through inclusion

The TV star, Olympic medallist and former world record holder, explains how sport empowers diversity and acts as an invaluable unifier for individuals, nations and businesses. 

Sport celebrates diversity and unites backgrounds and experiences – but when it comes to elite performance how can that benefit athletes and teams, helping them become champions?

Diversity helps sport immensely because it is part of our culture in that sense,” says two-time world champion Colin Jackson. He points to how his career as a champion indoor and outdoor hurdler for Team GB and Wales saw him benefit from the variety of ideas and experiences diversity could bring to the track alongside different backgrounds and cultures. 

“Sport allows you to influence culture as part of a diverse community. It gives people voices. I think one of the best things is when you think about diversity, you think of it in different ways and different elements. Sometimes you just look at it the way that it fits you and where you fit in to that. But of course, it's a jigsaw puzzle. It's a huge melting pot.”

“Look at people’s stories, look where they come from, look what they've achieved.” 

With that melting pot, comes inspiration through representation and involvement he says – especially on the biggest stages of all. “It could be Paralympians, Olympians – you can be inspired by it all. I always just say ‘look at people’s stories, look where they come from, look what they've achieved. And think about it, it could be you in your own little field. So don't be nervous if you're in one of those communities, be part of it!’.”

Read more about the power of diversity in business and sport

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Taking Pride

Colin grew up in Wales with Jamaican and Panamanian heritage and, having come out later in life, now champions greater LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport. The inherent unity of athletes competing against each other but all within the setting of the Olympics, only adds to the poignancy of diversity he says, bringing the international tapestry woven on the running track into our homes.

“I think when you can unify ideas and cultures the way that sport does – for example in the Olympic Games – it really brings a whole sense of experience. A whole sensory experience.”

“It can change the whole focus of a nation when that happens.”

The excellence and dedication on display can also inspire us at the individual and the national level he adds. “It allows people to stay committed, because they can see success across the board. I love the fact that you’ll watch the Olympic Games and there'll be countries that will win gold medals that have never won a gold medal before.

“The effect that that has across their nation is huge. And this is one of the beauties of sport and elite sport in that sense: people have the opportunity, they step up and deliver. And it can change the whole focus of a nation when that happens.” 

That’s not limited to press headlines and media splashes explains Colin. Large organisations can, and are, learning from the world of sport and the way it benefits from inclusion through diversity.  

“The way that we celebrate everybody in sport and how, in that sense, it doesn't matter where you're from. If you're an achiever, you're celebrated. If you're somebody who's worked hard and stayed committed, you're celebrated. So, there's never a losing situation in the world of sport. You can only gain from celebrating diversity and the issues that diversity can bring.”


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