The European Week of Sport is now in its third year, with the first two editions proving to be an outstanding success. The support that the Commission has been giving to sports promotion is invaluable.
In previous years, we had the opportunity, alongside the Commission, to bring sports closer to citizens, promote a healthier way of life and include sports as a public policy at European level. The success of the European Week of Sport is remarkable.
Our main goal, as legislators, is to promote policies that highlight the benefits sport has on people’s lives and on the EU as a whole, and encourage people to practice sport. There are three main dimensions that reflect the benefits of grassroots sport, which is our main target.
Grassroots sport not only generates income by itself, it also implies several cost reductions. Society in general benefits from practicing sport, as it involves having a healthier population and considerably less healthcare, social and labour costs in the long-term.
The social dimension of grassroots sports is perhaps the most visible. It helps better educate our children and prepare them for the future.
Health is another important aspect of sports. The population’s general wellbeing depends on healthy habits, especially when it comes to elderly people. We must promote a healthy way of life, which implies taking part in physical activity. Sport is also a valuable tool to fight against social exclusion.
The political dimension is probably the less obvious, but it has a powerful output. I believe that someone who exercises and does sports is a better citizen. Sport teaches you a set of values and rules which can be applied later in public life, especially for young people. It teaches you to win and lose, and helps you to cope with life situations and difficulties. Sports helps us to be better citizens - it teaches us discipline.
It creates a better environment to develop a stronger democracy. The benefits of sport are undeniable.
The EU institutions have, in recent years, been vocal in their support for physical activity. The treaty of Lisbon states that sport is an EU competence.
A report adopted by Parliament in 2012, which I drafted, proposed creating a European Sports Day. Instead of a day, as you may have noticed, this was extended to a whole week, which suggests that the Commission is even more enthusiastic than MEPs.
Initiatives such as the European Week of Sport are a good example of what politicians and legislators can do to promote sports and an active lifestyle.
Most of the competences are managed by the member states; that is why they have a great deal of responsibility when we talk about sports. I would encourage every member state to continue promoting sports at all ages. It is an investment that would guarantee healthier and happier citizens, which is always translated as a better country and in the end, a better European Union.