United Through Diversity Forum: Youth address the leaders of sports at SportAccord 2024

Birmingham, UK – Hosted the SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit, 7-11 April in Birmingham, UK. The event stands as a platform for shaping the future of sports on a global scale, bringing together 1,500 leaders and key decision-makers in sports.

SportAccord President Uğur Erdener, NSDF Manager Khun Supranee Guptasa, Saudi Olympic & Paralympic Committee president HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Saud on stage alongside UTS President Stephan Fox and the UTS Youth Hosts

United Through Sports (UTS) held the “United Through Diversity Forum” as an integral part of the SportAccord 2024 supported by the umbrella of AIMS. This momentous occasion provided a platform for exceptional youth to address leaders of the international sports community, royalty, and government officials. The forum also gave a perfect opportunity for UTS to report on its impactful journey over the years outlining the organization’s vision for the future. Inclusion of all youth in sport is a must.

UTS President Stephan Fox

At the heart of the event were the three dynamic youth presenters, local to the UK and representing the vibrant spirit of the country. Lakhan Kumar Sagu brought his infectious enthusiasm and passion for sports to the stage. At just eight years old, Lakhan’s dedication to his craft and his commitment to inspiring other young athletes left a lasting impression on attendees. Kiera Byland served as a powerful advocate for inclusivity and diversity in sports. As the current Special Olympics Global Athlete Congress Chair and a board member of Special Olympics International and Special Olympics Great Britain, Kiera’s journey from fulfilling her dreams as a Special Olympics athlete, to becoming a voice for athletes worldwide resonated deeply with the audience. She also brought many laughs from the crowded room with her humour and honesty. Joining Kiera and Lakhan on stage was Jordan Murphy, a rising star in the world of Muaythai. Jordan brought with him a palpable sense of national pride and enthusiasm that illuminated the forum. His passion for his sport and dedication to representing his country were evident to all in attendance, adding to the vibrant atmosphere of the event.

Kiera Byland, Jordan Murphy and Lakhan Kumar

The Forum served as a platform to remind the sport community of their role and duty to ensure youth are placed at the center of the decision-making process and that their needs are met. To demonstrate the diversity of Birmingham, the forum featured more local youth talent, with the captivating opening and closing performance by the Ultimate Bhangra dance group. The young ensemble of talent from the West Midlands presented their energetic and culturally rich performance, reflecting the vibrant diversity of Birmingham’s community.

Ultimate Bhangra dance group

One of the undeniable highlights of the forum was the presence and powerful message of 10 year old Harmonie-Rose Allen, a powerhouse of energy and passion. Harmonie is quadriplegic since contracting meningitis at just ten months old. Harmonie was awarded the Pride of Britain in 2021 for showing the UK and the world, that against all odds, we don’t have to just survive, but we can thrive. She is also a UTS Young Leader and won a gold medal at the UTS All Abilities Virtual Competition in 2021. Harmonie traveled to Birmingham with her dedicated mother Freya and support career Candy where she took to the stage and shared her remarkable story of resilience and courage with Royalty and Leaders of Sport. Her presentation served as a powerful call to action for inclusivity and was met with a standing ovation from the audience.

Harmonie-Rose Allen addressing the Leaders of Sport

“When we host events such as this forum, we have a unique opportunity to capture the attention of the highest level of sport, the decision makers. This forum was crucial as a reminder of the plight that young athletes face and that inclusion is still not yet a given. The message was clear, now is the time to step up a gear and hear from the youth themselves what we need to do, to be better. We are already in discussions towards the next steps of expanding and ensuring inclusion of all youth in sports. This is great progress. We thank our young hosts, presenters, and performers. A special thanks to our UTS team and to SportAccord, who opened large doors for UTS in 2018 to host their first ever World Youth Festival in Bangkok. We have come a long way and are so grateful for the continued support. This year is seeing some huge changes and we can’t wait to share more news soon!” said Julia Govinden, UTS CEO.

UTS CEO Julia Govinden