Based in Monaco, the international organisation Peace and Sport appointed Marlène Harnois as the new representative of their sports movement Champions for Peace. The taekwondo Olympic medallist will replace slalom canoeist Benjamin Boukpeti. Recently, Monaco Tribune had the pleasure of meeting both of them.

Since 2007, the international organisation Peace and Sport has been using sport and its values to promote peace. Founded by Olympic medallist and world champion pentathlete Joël Bouzou, their projects have provided help to a wide variety of people in need. Through their work, they have improved access to education in poorer countries, helped refugees and child soldiers reintegrate back into society, and given a new lease of life to children orphaned in war.

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Thanks to a group of high-level athletes using sport as a means to achieve peace, the Peace and Sport organisation has been able to lead projects in Monaco and the rest of the world. “Since the group’s creation, “Champions for Peace” has used their athletes’ experience and reputation to lead projects resulting in great social change,” explained Peace and Sport’s President and Founder, Joël Bouzou. “Champions for Peace has demonstrated that sport is a powerful tool for communication and cohesion, especially in places affected by instability and poverty.”

119 athletes involved in global projects

Featuring amongst the 119 members are some big names in the sporting world. Six-time winner of the Ballon d’Or and FC Barcelona star, Lionel Messi was the latest addition to the Champions for Peace team. More recently, taekwondo champion Marlène Harnois has just been declared as the club’s new representative, after being involved with Peace and Sport since 2016 and leading many humanitarian and sporting projects. One of her most notable contributions has been with the Caravan for Peace project in Mali.

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“My aim is to really spur the group on, providing help and support to the work carried out by Champions for Peace and increasing the importance of this peace through sport movement,” summarised the Olympic medallist taking over from Benjamin Boukpeti, Togo’s first Olympic medal winner, who himself took over from Wilson Kipketer and Kaveh Mehrabi. The canoeist was delighted to hear that “Marlène was going to be taking over, because she’s been involved in the organisation for years and she has an extraordinary energy.” He went on to add how “it’s a real advantage to know all the athletes and understand how Peace and Sport works.”

Marlène Harnois, a champion with a big heart

After winning a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics, Marlène Harnois went on to lead several philanthropic campaigns in West Africa, where she has spent time in schools promoting sport and its values. Continuing her work in Africa, she then launched the Heart Angel Foundation on the Ivory Coast, during a trip with two Olympic medal athletes from the country: taekwondo champion Cheick Cissé and Ruth Gbagbi, the country’s first woman to achieve an Olympic medal. Both athletes earned their medals at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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“I’ve always dreamt, even during my career, of taking part in humanitarian missions,” reveals the Canadian-born athlete. “I come from a martial arts background, which is a sport that teaches respect, courage and solidarity. After Cheick and Ruth’s historic victories, I realised the power of sport and its ability to change the world, bring people together and give a country its spot on the world’s stage.” She will proudly represent Champions for Peace in the coming months.

*Didier Drogba, Blaise Matuidi, Lionel Messi, Sébastien Loeb, Novak Djokovic, Paula Radcliffe, Sarah Ourahmoune, Melissa Plaza, Laurence Fischer and Siya Kolisi are all members of Champions for Peace.