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First 'World Games' for Scholar-Athletes Aiming To Nurture Friendships

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Twenty-five years from now, when aides to the leader of Egypt are attempting to persuade her to block U.S. imports in protest of trade practices, maybe she will remember the friends she made in Newport, R.I., in the summer of 1993.

Maybe she will recall the many pleasures she shared and hurdles she faced with her American colleagues. And just maybe she will be able to pick up the telephone and call her former soccer teammate--the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee--to help resolve the countries' differences.

A tall order, perhaps, but that kind of scenario is, in large measure, the ultimate goal of the World Scholar-Athlete Games that will take place for the first time June 20 to July 1 in the posh sailing port on the Eastern Seaboard.

More than 2,000 high school and college students, ages 16 to 19, from around the globe will gather in Newport for 12 days of athletic competition, cultural activities, and learning.

"What we're hoping to accomplish is not only to gather 2,100 or so [prospective] world leaders in a 12-day celebration of sport, culture, and education, but also to have them leave with enhanced leadership skills and a view toward taking action in their states or countries on some of these issues we're going to be exploring,'' says Daniel E. Doyle Jr., the executive director of the Institute for International Sport, the organizer of the games.

"Our goal, among other goals, is to have these young people develop friendships that will endure,'' he says.

Big-Name Attractions

Conceived by Mr. Doyle in 1986, the event has been in the works since June 1989 when the institute's board of directors gave its formal approval.

Although the institute has experience in promoting harmony among diverse groups through athletics, the world games is by far its largest undertaking.

To carry it out, the institute, based at the University of Rhode Island, expects to raise $4.3 million, including an $800,000 grant from the U.S. government and more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind contributions from the state of Rhode Island and the university.

Corporations and foundations have also contributed to the venture.

Organizers have pulled together some big-name attractions from sports and world affairs to help them promote the event and participate in it.

U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, a former professional-basketball star, is the honorary chairman, and other sports luminaries--such as Joe Paterno, the football coach at the Pennsylvania State University, and the tennis sportscaster and columnist Bud Collins--have agreed to take part.

"Every day, a lot of well-known people will be walking around campus,'' Mr. Doyle says. "In some cases, we're asking them to come not necessarily to give big addresses, but just to be there. Our big focus here is to make this a gathering of not only sport but of culture and education.''

Rick Pitino, the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, has been
asked to talk about the pursuit of excellence--on and off the court--while the former basketball great Bill Walton has been asked to talk about ethics.

The cost to students to attend the event is $385, which includes meals and housing at University of Rhode Island dormitories. Travel expenses are separate. Students who cannot afford the fee may be able to get financial assistance.

Applications should be submitted by the close of this month, although consideration will be given in special circumstances to students who miss the deadline.

Singing, Writing, and Art

The 12-day event will include three kinds of activities. Some students will compete in sports. Others will create works of art, sing in an international choir, or write. And all students will unite for "theme days'' that address the world environment, world peace, international commerce, substance abuse, and ethics and sportsmanship.

Students in the writing component of the program, for instance, will have the opportunity to discuss their work with such writers as the sportswriter Frank Deford and the novelist Geoffrey Wolff.

The students will be asked to create works about the theme-day issues and then select one of their pieces to be included in a monograph published after the games.

For their part, the artists will create pieces that portray sports in their countries, and the singers will form a choir that will perform at functions throughout the event.

The concept of combining sports and learning appeals to some of the students who have already been selected to participate.

"I like the idea of [theme days] because in school we don't have time to talk freely about things like that,'' says Kelly Stevens, a sophomore from Lockport, N.Y., who will play soccer.

Let the Games Begin

The athletes will compete in one of five sports--basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis doubles, or sailing.

Unlike other international sporting events such as the Olympic Games, the emphasis will be on cooperation, rather than competition. Instead of flag-waving for their respective nations, athletes will be assigned teammates from other countries and cultures.

As a result, the teams initially will not be the well-oiled machines that teams become when talented athletes have played and practiced together for a long time.

"By the mid-point of the games, these teams will function well as teams,'' says Mr. Doyle, "but it is the process we're more interested in--meeting each other in the gym the first day, getting to know each other, and being involved in a team process.''

He adds that previous institute programs have demonstrated how this works.

The institute's Belfast United program, begun in 1988, for example, brings together youths from violence-plagued Northern Ireland to play soccer and basketball.

"It's fascinating to see a Catholic kid and a Protestant kid [learn to play] together,'' Mr. Doyle says of the attempt to ease Northern Ireland's sectarian tensions.

In addition, unlike in other sporting events, the athletes selected for the world games must have excelled academically.

Carrie Templin, for example, is a 16-year-old basketball player from Hillpoint, Wis. In addition to being her team's most valuable player in both her freshman and sophomore years at Weston High School, Ms. Templin ranked first in her class with a 4.0 grade average.

The athlete-scholars are also expected to have exhibited leadership qualities.

David Justin Ramsey, a 17-year-old soccer player from Katy, Tex., is the treasurer of his senior class at James E. Taylor High School, the chairman of the National Honor Society, and an officer of the Spanish Club.

"I really don't know what to expect,'' Mr. Ramsey says, "but whatever happens it should be fun.''

Sailing Ships and Sealing Friendships

Ms. Templin is also unsure just what to expect, but she knew she did not want to pass it up.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,'' says the high school junior.

In addition to meeting and befriending teenagers from around the world, Ms. Templin hopes the experience might just have an application in her own backyard.

"If you can cooperate with people from different countries who speak different languages, it should help you in your own high schools,'' she says.

Benjamin Brook Montgomery expects to be exposed to a wide range of new people and experiences as he sets sail in boats that were used in America's Cup competitions.

A senior at St. Andrews Episcopal High School just outside his Jackson, Miss., home, Mr. Montgomery has sailed extensively, but never in a 12-meter yacht.

"I've always wanted to be there [Newport]. I might not want to come back,'' says Mr. Montgomery, who is considering a career in naval architecture.

"I'm from Mississippi,'' he adds. "Living down here, you don't get to deal with people from many backgrounds. Just getting that out of it would be the greatest thing for me.''

"The world is full of problems,'' he continues. "If I can personally get a better understanding [of others], I can share that with other people. This certainly won't solve world problems, but you have to start somewhere.''

The organizers plan that the world games will take place every four years, with the next games slated for 1997.

Then, beginning in 1999, Mr. Doyle hopes to pull off what could be called the "continent games'' at the biennium.

Europe might host the continent games for its students one year, then Asia the next time around.

Alumni of the World

Meanwhile, the institute is concentrating on Newport and on nurturing the budding friendships of the future world leaders when they go back home.

One plan Mr. Doyle has is the formation of an international electronic-mail system, a computerized-message function that will enable the students to use technology to keep in touch.

"When these students leave, they become alumni of the games,'' he says. "We're going to try to foster and facilitate communication among these people.''

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