WASHINGTON, D.C. /eNewsChannels/ — Recognizing the need for inclusiveness in the world of sports and people-to-people exchanges, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announced today that it will bring 14 athletes from Kazakhstan to the United States to participate in an inaugural exchange for athletes with physical disabilities.

During the 10-day exchange, these male and female sitting volleyball players will participate in clinics and games with their American counterparts in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, including with the U.S. Men and Women’s Sitting Volleyball teams and USA Volleyball. Sitting volleyball is a Paralympic sport for both men and women.

Sports diplomacy builds on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power diplomacy.” It embraces the use of a full range of diplomatic tools, including sports, to bring individuals together to strengthen people-to-people relationships and to foster greater understanding.

Sports diplomacy creates international exchange opportunities for athletes and their coaches. Participating in the sports visitor program, athletes and coaches from 54 countries traveled to the United States to interact with their American counterparts and engage on a host of issues, including: balancing academics and athletics; creating opportunities for athletes with disabilities; and empowering women and girls through sports. This is the first-ever sports visitor program focused solely on athletes with physical disabilities.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Sports United Office leads the U.S. Department of State’s international exchange efforts to bring the global community together through sports. Athletes and coaches from a range of sports are chosen to conduct clinics, visit schools, and engage with youth overseas in a dialogue on the importance of an education, positive health practices, and respect for diversity.