Virtual EU Sport Forum 2021

Virtual EU Sport Forum 2021

This year’s EU Sport Forum was organised by the European Commission, held on June 8 and 9 in an online form, drawing together over 500 participants, with an overall theme ‘Towards a healthier, resilient and sustainable European sport’.

The event gave participants an opportunity to get updates and views on the current topics in the field of European sport, with contribution of diverse speakers, exchanging and discussing views with policy makers of the EU institutions and Member States while tackling a range of topics during the sessions.

European University Sports Association (EUSA) was represented at the online event by its President Mr Adam Roczek, Secretary General Mr Matjaz Pecovnik and Communications & Projects Manager Mr Andrej Pisl.

EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel

The starting session consisted of opening speeches by Ms Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth; Mr Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee – IOC; Mr Tiago Brandao Rodrigues, Portuguese Minister of Education; and Mr Tomasz Frankowski, MEP and Co-Chair of the EP Sport Group.

IOC President Thomas Bach

The first plenary session focused on how sport can be environmentally friendly. The introduction to the topic was given by Mr Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, ahead of the panel discussion, moderated by Mr Tim McPhie, Spokesperson Climate Action. Contributors in the session were Mr Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency; Ms Georgina Grenon, Director Environmental Excellence, Paris 2024 Olympic Games; Ms Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu, Sectors Engagement Lead, UN Climate Change, Global Climate Action; and Ms Katy Stevens, Head of CSR and Sustainability, European Outdoor Group.

Sustainability panel

An online workshop Ready, steady, go. Off the blocks for a new start! was held next, having the introduction by Mr Niels Nygaard, acting President of European Olympic Committee – EOC. In the panel discussion, moderated by Ms Marisa Fernandez Esteban, Deputy Head of the Sport Unit - European Commission, the speakers were Ms Kornelija Tiesnesyte, Former Deputy Minister for Sport, Lithuania; Mr Jerome Pero, General Secretary of the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry – FESI; Mr Andre' Bernardo, Chief of Strategy and Operations, Sporting Clube de Portugal; and Ms Laura Vilches, Head of European Public Affairs, LaLiga.

Panel on new start

The Forum was also an opportunity to get an update on the new Erasmus+ Programme by the European Commission, presented by the Head of the Sport Unit of the European Commission Ms Floor van Houdt. Directly related to the impact of COVID-19 on coaches and athletes, a workshop on the challenges and lessons learnt was organised as the last session on the first day. The introduction was done by Ms Britt Eerland, Olympic table tennis player, before the start of the panel discussion, moderated by Mr Sergio Lara-Bercial, International Council for Couching Excellence – ICCE. Ms Vladyslava Kravchenko, Maltese Paralympic athlete; Mr Stefan Ludwig, coach of the ALBA Berlin Basketball Club; Mr Simon Keogh, CEO of Rugby Players Ireland; and Ms Martina Jericevic, former Chair of the Working Party on Sport, Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU, contributed in the discussion.

Impact of Covid-19 panel

The second day started with the first plenary session of the day: A healthy lifestyle for all - teaming up to achieve it. The opening keynote was done by Commissioner Gabriel, introducing HealthyLifeStyle4All initiative. The panel discussion was moderated by Mr Brian Maguire, journalist at EURACTIV / EBX Media – who was also the overall moderated of the 2-day event. Contributors in the session were Ms Simona Kustec, Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Republic of Slovenia; Ms Fiona Bull, Head of Unit, Physical Activity, Department of Health Promotion, WHO; Mr Eric Abidal, UEFA Ambassador; and Mr Cliff Collins, Director of Programmes, EuropeActive.

Healthy lifestyle plenary

Second plenary was entitled How can sport and physical activity better contribute to a healthier society? The introduction was done by Mr Andre de Jeu, Director of the Dutch Association of Sports and Municipalities, and the panel discussion was moderated by Mr Georgi Chapov, Secretary of the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Bulgaria to the EU, with contributors Ms Sara Massini, Secretary General of the European Non-Governmental Sports Organisation – ENGSO, Ms    Sami Kokko, SCForth Ambassador and Professor at the Research Centre for Health Promotion, University of Jyvaskyla; Mr Hrvoje Custonja, Secretary General/CEO of the International School Sport Federation – ISF; and Mr Paolo Caserotti, Head of the Center for Active and Healthy, University of Southern Denmark.

Healthier society panel

The last plenary session was in a form of an online workshop: #BeEqual: How to move towards more gender balance in the sport sector. Keynote speech was given by Ms Emine Bozkurt, Chair of the High-Level Group on Gender Equality and former MEP, and the panel discussion was moderated by Mr Simon Plasschaert, EU Attache Sport, Permanent Representation of Belgium to the EU, with contributors Ms Marisol Casado, President of the International Triathlon Union and IOC Member; Ms Nadine Kessler, Chief of Women’s football, UEFA; Mr Jean Gracia, former President of the European Athletics Championships Paris 2020; and Mr Stanislas Frossard, Executive Secretary, Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport, Council of Europe.

Gender equality panel

The event closed with the concluding remarks by Ms Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, highlighting the key issues raised in the event, and inviting the organisations to support and actively join the HealthyLifeStyle4All and the European Week of Sport.

Several of the topics discussed at the Forum were of key relevance also directly to the work of EUSA and its Institute, including gender equality and inclusion, sustainability, healthy lifestyle with physical activity. These areas are also addressed through transnational projects, co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

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