The Asian German Sports Exchange Programme (A.G.S.E.P.) is an AGO which has been conducting intercommunity SFD programs with the social aim of improving relationships between estranged Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka since 2002. In steady cooperation with local community groups, A.G.S.E.P.’s vision is to ‘contribute to the re-establishment of peace’ in the divided country (37).
For this website the experiences created at A.G.S.E.P.’s 2007 Intercultural Sports Meeting (ISM) project were investigated. The project’s effect on intergroup relations and the stock of social capital available to the three disparate Sri Lankan communities Marawila/Nattandiya (Sinhalese, western Sri Lanka), Anamaduwa (Sinhalese, north-western Sri Lanka) and Nilaveli (Tamil and Muslim, LTTE controlled north-eastern Sri Lanka) was also explored. The ISM can be described as a sportplus project (see 38). It reached 150 young Sri Lankans between the ages of 6 and 16 years, who came together for a multi-sports event project that offered cricket, football and volleyball games, creative sports, swimming clinics, and a variety of cultural performances over a long weekend in January 2007.
All sport activities were staged in the multi-purpose sports venue Peace Village in the rural fishing village of Nattandiya. Importantly, the ISM formed part of an established and nested SFD program orchestrated by the Marawila/Nattandiya communities. Under a ‘Games for Peace’ umbrella – and with significant support by the German aid agency Friedensdorf International (Peace Village International) – the communities engaged in regular sport and physical activity programs with the intention of deepening existing relationships and networks. On the other hand, ‘highlight events’ such as the ISM looked at a widening of participation and programme scope. They were used to showcase the SFD programme and its related initiatives to a wider cross-section of a host community, including potentially new participants, family members, sponsors, government bodies and sport associations.
The Guest of Honour and the Minister for Nation Building in Sri Lanka, Mr. Dassanayake, officially opened the ISM. After a number of cultural performances and welcome speeches, the children were split into ethnically mixed groups that engaged in different sport activities. Cricket and football were chosen for their potential in team-building and co-operation; creative sports, arts and crafts promised to allow for the expression of talent and interest in ‘something new and different’; and swimming sessions had the educational advantage of teaching the children a new skill – water having become associated with danger for a large proportion of the Sri Lankan youth after the Tsunami disaster in 2004 (39). Further, cultural performances and dance shows provided a special flair during the evening programme, which led into nights of music and dancing at the Peace Village complex. The organisers tried to provide for both structured sport activities and free time for the