Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport
European Week of Sport flagship event "The role of sport in promoting tolerance and open societies in Europe"
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very warm welcome and thank you for joining me today. I am very pleased to be with you at the flagship event of this very first European Week of Sport.
I hope you had the chance to take a walk through the European Sport Village outside - and hopefully try some sport activities.
I would like to congratulate all the organisers and participants for their spirit and the great sportsmanship they have shown these past few days, and of course during months of preparation. This is a great example of what people can achieve through sport and physical activity. And it has brought to life what we want to discuss this evening: how sport can bring people together and open their hearts and minds. Thank you!
At a superficial glance, it may seem frivolous to put sport centre stage at a time when Europe is facing what is probably its toughest challenge yet. Can we maintain a society that is open and tolerant, in which people find their place and live peacefully together? Conflicts in neighbouring countries, large numbers of migrants coming to Europe and terrorist attacks in our own cities have lent new urgency to this question.
I believe that sport has a vital role in finding responses. Of course sport is about having fun, being healthy and feeling good about yourself. But it is also about something much bigger. Sport and physical activity bring people from different backgrounds together, helping to create friendships and building communities.
The European Week of Sport is a wonderful opportunity to highlight this powerful role that sport can play. The #BeActive campaign, with many events taking place right across Europe, is not only getting people moving. It is also getting them involved in their local communities to help create new personal relationships and build bridges between different parts of our society.
Today's event is about celebrating the positive force of sport. We will hear about people who work every day, through innovative and creative sport programmes, to help build communities. And we will discuss how we can further promote the role of sport in creating open, tolerant societies, how we can ensure it plays its part in our joint European response to exclusion and radicalisation.
It is up to us to show that sport is much more than a leisure activity. European sport policy has to be strongly interlinked with the European Commission’s political priorities on social and economic issues.
We already put social inclusion at the heart of the EU sport agenda years ago. It is one of the priorities of the EU Work Plan for Sport. And projects related to the social dimension of sport have been receiving funding from the Erasmus+ programme, and before that, through our Preparatory Actions.
We know that - whether at the professional or the grassroots level - sport is a force for positive change in our societies. What we need to do now is to find ways of harnessing this force even more effectively.
I am convinced that what we are hearing at this event will help us in this effort. The European Week of Sport ambassadors will tell us how sport has contributed to their lives, how it has impacted them and how they see the role of sport in society. I am truly honoured to welcome Clarence Seedorf, Paula Radcliffe, Tapio Korjus and Joel Gonzales here tonight. I would like to thank you and all the other ambassadors for having committed yourself to supporting the objectives of the Week so whole-heartedly.
The individual stories of our ambassadors complement the important discussions you already started earlier today. We need to find answers to a number of central questions. How can sport be used in education and to boost employability? How can physical activity help make workplaces more inclusive? How can we ensure that all social groups have access to sport and physical activity, and that sport clubs play their part in building inclusive communities?
I believe that we can have the strongest impact in these four areas. That is why the results of your discussions and your recommendations which the workshop-leaders will present later are important for our future work.
I will make the European Week of Sport a vital part of my efforts to promote grassroots sport. This is one of my priorities in this part of my portfolio. I have asked two groups of experts to help me find ways of boosting grassroots sport even more effectively and to use it to greater effect, both in building communities and in promoting intercultural dialogue with the EU's neighbouring countries. Moreover, I will keep using Erasmus+ to support sport activities, including those that foster social inclusion.
The European Week of Sport is thus part of a bigger push for change. It is about how we live together in our society, it is about people, their ideas, their relationships. The Week is not a centralised event in Brussels, but a series of activities that take place where Europeans live: in their cities and regions. And the aim is to show them how easily they can make sport and physical activity part of their daily lives - lives that are shared with others, from whatever background.
Seeing how many of us came together to pull off this first European Week of Sport, knowing that large numbers of Europeans have got engaged in the #BeActive initiative, and hearing numerous inspiring individual stories makes me confident. Confident that we can get Europe moving for a better future.
The winners of the first ever #BeActive awards going to outstanding projects in sport later tonight show what people out there can do. And the European citizen ambassador we will nominate for next year's European Week of Sport further stresses that this is a project that lives through people.
I hope you will join me in continuing to spread the message so that together, we can develop this initiative and make it grow. So that we can harness the power of sport to build a better Europe, today and for the generations to come.
This is a great goal and the European Week of Sport a fantastic project. I am honoured and proud to have you with me. Thank you.