Safeguarding traditional games needs actions by all, especially young people


Playing traditional games help young people connect with their roots and identities. Unfortunately, traditional games have disappeared or eclipsed by online games around the world. This sentiment was echoed by participants at the UNESCO Consultative Meeting of the global project, Creation of an Open Digital Library on Traditional Games (ODLTG), held on 9 September 2019 at the UNESCO Headquarters.

The meeting was attended by UNESCO representatives from project pilot countries, including experts on intangible cultural heritage, traditional games and sports, digital preservation and innovation, youth representatives and private sector partners.

In his welcoming remarks, Moez Chakchouk, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, underlined the importance of traditional games and sports in enabling sustainable development. Corresponding to UNESCO’s mandate in building inclusive knowledge societies and empowering local communities by increasing access to and preservation and sharing of information and knowledge in all of UNESCO’s domains, he stressed that “it is critically important to preserve and promote knowledge on traditional games and sports in a transdisciplinary way.”

Marielza Oliveira, Director of UNESCO Beijing Cluster Office, UNESCO Representative to the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea recalled the historical inscription of traditional Korean wrestling (Ssirum/Ssireum) on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list, following an unprecedented joint application from both the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea. She said it is an excellent testimony of traditional games and sports’ contribution to peace-building and the rapprochement of Cultures.

The Global Project “Creation of an Open Digital Library on Traditional Games (ODLTG)” aims to use ICTs to safeguard such knowledge as living heritage in the public domain, narrow the digital divide and promote the rapprochement of cultures through sports and games. Since its launch in 2015, the ODLTG project has received generous financial and technical support from Chinese private sector partner Tencent.

During the consultative meeting, UNESCO signed a project agreement with Venture Entertainment Inc. a private company, officially launching a new partnership, which will support the ODLTG’s continuance in 2020 and beyond.

According to the ODLTG roadmap 2020-2021 adopted at the meeting, Venture will support UNESCO to expand the volume and variety of open access content on traditional games and sports, increase their accessibility through the digital library, and promote teaching and learning especially through engaging young people in innovative ways.

Representatives from pilot countries shared best practices to inspire new piloting exercises. Various UNESCO programme sectors attending the meeting introduced guidelines and initiatives in the areas of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Youth and Sports, and YouthMobile, with a view “to advising implementation and creating synergies with the ODLTG.

The upgraded digital library was presented to participants during the meeting. The improved version is built using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), is bilingual (English and Chinese), and has an intuitive user and data management interface. It will allow the testing of direct data input by project pilot countries into the platform, as the first step towards opening it up for user-generated content in the future.

The ODLTG Youth Engagement Action Plan was also proposed to inspire actions empowering and engaging young people in this endeavor. The Plan includes the establishment of a reward mechanism to incentivize young people to become content contributors, innovators and advocates.

In closing the meeting, Ms. Oliveira praised the multi-sectoral and stakeholder approach in advancing the project and called for contributions to the ODLTG by a wider range of interested partners to achieve multiplier effects.

In parallel to the consultative meeting, the exhibition “Safeguarding and Transmission: Traditional Li Textile Techniques, Traditional Games, and Dialects” is open from 9 to 12 September at the UNESCO Headquarters. This year marks the 10th anniversary since the traditional Li textile techniques were inscribed on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2009.The exhibition showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Li Minority, in particular the traditional Li textile and its inextricable link with the traditional games and dialects of the Li people.