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World teen power on display

Scholar-athletes from 155 nations gathered last week to explore global issues and bond over everything from sports to the arts.

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It wasn't the Olympics, an international bake-off, an arts festival, or a battle of the bands. In fact, the fourth World Scholar Athlete Games was all of these and more.

Some 1,900 high schoolers from all 50 states and 155 countries gathered here last week for a nine-day event hosted by the University of Rhode Island (URI) and sponsored by the Institute for International Sport (IIS) and the United Nations. It featured lectures from key thinkers, symposia on global issues, and opportunities to bond over everything from softball to symphony, track to theater.

"The point is to let us know there's more out there," says Mike Niles, 15, of Lincoln, R.I. "It's better than any summer soccer camp. What soccer camp has President [Bill] Clinton come and talk?"

First launched in 1993, the scholar-athlete games grew out of founder Daniel Doyle's travels as a basketball player and coach. Touring Europe and Cuba in the 1960s and '70s, he saw how sports fostered respect and understanding, even among children of different backgrounds.

His idea: Pool talent from around the world in one gym, one studio, one forum – and let fun do the rest.

New England's rainy weather broke Tuesday morning last week, opening up a sunny second day of the games. Hundreds of high school athletes suited up and hustled around URI's campus – their voices shouting in several languages and countless accents as they slugged, hurled, and kicked on the crowded fields.

On the sideline of a soccer game, Justin Woods and Aruna Sesay cheered on teammates, but after awhile, restlessness got the better of them. Justin booted a spare soccer ball into the air, tapped it with his knee, and head-butted the ball over to Aruna.


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