Social inclusion and tolerance at the heart of European Week of Sport

Written by Tibor Navracsics on 7 September 2015 in Opinion
Opinion

Europe has a key role to play in promoting physical activity, says Tibor Navracsics.

This week, we are launching the very first European Week of Sport. This is a new Europe-wide event designed to inspire people to do sport and be active - not just during this one week, but all year round.

Hundreds of activities are being organised across Europe under the #beactive theme and 31 countries are taking part in the campaign. The aim is to reach out to people in different environments, with different backgrounds, ages and fitness levels. 

We want to show that it is easy - and fun - to make physical activity part of our daily life, wherever we are. That is why we have built the week around four focus days, centred on sport at work, at school or university, outdoors and in dedicated sport facilities.


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I am encouraged to see how much enthusiasm this initiative is generating. The large number of events reflects this, some put on by sport and public bodies, others by committed individuals.

Organising the European Week is, one might say, like playing in a sports team as we have to work together to reach our goals, while respecting each other and our differences.

Indeed, let's not forget that sport is about much more than leading a healthy life and feeling better, it is also a means of promoting positive values and is a crucial factor in tackling marginalisation. 

These are priorities for the European Commission, and that is why we have made social inclusion and the role of sport in promoting tolerance and open societies in Europe the theme of our flagship event in Brussels, later this week on Wednesday.

Today Europe faces a number of threats to its core values. Marginalisation, exclusion and intolerance are tearing at our social fabric. We want to work together to make Europe fairer and more open, and promoting sport is one great way of doing this. It brings people from different backgrounds together, helping to create friendships and build communities.

I am convinced that Europe has a role to play in encouraging physical activity. And indeed, the European Week of Sport has strong political backing both from member states and the European Parliament 0 which launched the idea in 2012 in its report on the European dimension in sport.

At the Commission, we have been working closely with member states and the sporting community to learn how sport and physical activities are already being promoted, what is working well and what can be improved.

Several EU countries have well-established national days or weeks dedicated to sport. The European Week of Sport is an opportunity to build on their strengths, bringing together different partners at different levels.

Ten well-known athletes have become European Week of Sport ambassadors, among them marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, footballer Clarence Seedorf and tennis player Caroline Wozniacki. I am excited that they have offered their support to this event. 

However, this is not just about raising awareness. It would be great to see more Europeans being active all year round and so we hope to inspire people to try something fresh, hopefully create long-term healthy habits and build new personal relationships.

We are therefore working closely with national coordinators, sport organisations and others to make sure that this first European Week of Sport will be memorable in itself - and also help to trigger longer-term change. The week is part of my efforts to promote the role of grassroots sport in all its dimensions and this is one of my priorities in this policy area.

In just a couple of months' time, a new high level advisory group that I have set up will begin. These experts know the benefits of grassroots sport best, both in terms of health and social inclusion. I am keen on hearing their ideas on how we can support these issues more effectively in the EU.

And I want to keep using the new Erasmus+ programme to boost sport activities. With a budget of €265m over seven years, the sport strand of Erasmus+ supports sport organisations, including those at grassroots level, that want to cooperate with partners in other EU countries or set up not-for- profit sport events at European, national, regional and local levels. 

European Week of Sport is part of a bigger initiative to bring about change. Change that will encourage more Europeans to lead an active life and that will help to build personal networks and bridges between different parts of our societies. It is a great goal.

 

About the author

Tibor Navracsics is European education, culture, youth and sport Commissioner

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