Commission launches European week of sport

The European commission has announced plans for a European week of sport, launching in 2015, which aims to promote health and wellbeing through sport.

By Kayleigh Rose Lewis

12 Jun 2014

According to a Eurobarometer survey, currently 42 per cent of Europeans never exercise or partake in sport, an increase on the 39 per cent of citizens who didn't four years ago, with 30 per cent never taking part in any physical activities.

Androulla Vassiliou, Europe's education, culture, multilingualism and youth commissioner, described these figures as "staggering", and said that they represent a "worrying trend".

Speaking at the launch of the event, the Cypriot commissioner also pointed out that, "In southern or eastern Europe the situation is even more serious than in northern Europe.

"[The European week of sport] should inspire and encourage people to get off their couches, and get people to move" - Androulla Vassiliou

"I trust that we all share the same concerns regarding these worrying results," she continued, "We need to bring together our different experiences and initiatives to help reverse this trend.

The European week of sport, the result of extensive consultation with member states and stakeholders, has "exactly this aim", she explained.

"The idea of a European week of sport receives clear support from member states, from local authorities and from sport stakeholders, ranging from federations to grassroots organisations or sport industries.

"To be successful, the European week of sport will need to actively involve them all. We need to involve you all," stressed Vassiliou.

She went on, "A European week of sport should go beyond the promotion of sport in a strict sense and include the wider physical activity perspective in order to reach out to as large an audience as possible… [it] cannot only address 'sporting youth', or indeed those who are already convinced.

"We should not be preaching to the converted or we will fail to reach out to the largest possible audience," she warned, arguing, "What needs to be done is to address everybody: young people, women as much as men, older generations, as well as youth, people with disabilities, socially disadvantaged groups and everyone else.

"For that, we will need a clear message and well-targeted communication activities.

"The week does not intend to focus only on creating awareness. It should really constitute an opportunity for everybody to work out and engage in physical activity. It should inspire and encourage people to get off their couches, and get people to move."

As well as support from the commission, member states will also receive an €80,000 grant to help support "at least one national event" and to help "coordinate grassroots activities".

She explained that the week is a "work in progress" and that a steering committee will be put in place to ensure "continuity and evolution".

"As a starting point, the 2015 week will inevitably have a stronger EU-centred dimension than subsequent editions, but most importantly it will set the necessary working tools for the future," said the commissioner.

"I hope that… you will be as convinced as I am that, by joining forces, the European week of sport can have a lasting impact in raising awareness of the value of sport and physical activity in promoting health and wellbeing in the EU," she concluded.

"The European Week of Sport should look for partnerships with already existing initiatives within the Olympic movement" - Folker Hellmund

Folker Hellmund, head of office for the European Olympic committee, responded to the announcement saying, "The Olympic movement supports and welcomes all initiatives that stimulate people at grassroots level to practise sport.

"In this regard, the European week of sport should look for partnerships with already existing initiatives within the Olympic movement such as the Olympic day on 23 June.

"Furthermore, for the organised sport it is important that initiatives by the European Union take into account the sport structures in Europe and more precisely the importance of the sport clubs," urged Hellmund.

"If the aim of this European week is to build a sustainable event to the benefit of grassroots sport in Europe, the EU should work in close collaboration with the sport club structures established all over Europe," he finished.

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