World popular gadget, almost a status symbol of our time is being released this days. First in Tokyo, well because sun rises in Japan first, and then in Sydney. Hundreds of young people camping in front of the stores for days. They want to be the first ones in line to get it. A young teenager says he would consider selling his place in line for 4,000 – 5,000 US dollars. Why is the newest gadget more valued than an Olympic medal? Why do we make news out of a situation when girl gets period cramps during her swimming competition? Many athletes do incredible things to achieve their results without big media hassle. And what do we do? We who have rights to speak, to raise awareness on many platforms around the globe. How many rules and regulations say that we need to emphasize the gender equality, to raise awareness about the people with disabilities, to create new paths for the next generations who will be the one to create paths for the next generation? Did we all watched Paralympic Games as much as the Olympic ones the month before? Can you tell the exact number and names of the athletes who won Paralympic medals for your country at Rio 2016? No, we can’t. Whose fault is this? Sponsors who would rather see their brand name on the jersey of Usain Bolt than on David Brown? Trying to Google his name won’t help you to find out who is he, but he competed and won a medal for the same sport category. The difference is that he is a paralympic athlete. We are the one who created idols, status symbols and wishlists of our lives.
As a member of the Croatian women’s table tennis team, Sandra competed in World Championships eight times, represented Croatia at the 2008 Summer Olympics and entered the top 50 players of the world. After one fatal night drive from France to Poland with her teammates, she spent the next following months battling for her life. Against all odds, she defied doctors by returning to the sport. “What motivated me to come back is the love that I have for table tennis and sport in general,” she said. “Many people were there for me on my way to success, but most importantly, I believed in myself and I never gave up.” Today, she is the European, world and Para-Olympic champion, unbeaten for three years. I look at her as a role model.
Roland and Paulo
They have met several months before “Homo si teć”, in English it stands for “Let’s run everybody”. “Homo si teć” is a half-marathon race being held every year in the city of Rijeka, Croatia, with more than 15.000 participants from 10 different countries. In his early age, doctors have determined that Roland was suffering from a genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy – a type of muscular dystrophy. I don’t remember who won, or where the winner came from, but I do remember Paulo pushing Roland’s wheelchair during the entire race, more than 21 kilometres. This year, Roland finished a triathlon where he conquered 750 meters of swimming, 20 kilometres of cycling and 5 kilometres of running. I consider Roland a sports ambassador who raises the awareness and implies the inclusion of youth with disabilities in sports. This whips up my deepest respect.
European Universities Games Zagreb – Rijeka 2016
One day before the European Universities Games 2016 in Croatia started, 100 volunteers cleaned the entire Campus and the new student dormitory with their bare hands, in only two hours. They did it so their friends from 45 different countries could enter clean rooms just 12 hours later. People whose faces you can't find on the front covers of newspapers because they have spent their time in medical rooms, warehouses, sport venues, cars and vans, buses, security offices and so on. More than one thousand volunteers - they are the true heroes. This is how I see and feel about the act of volunteering. And I can’t remember all the names, but I do remember them with all my senses - their faces, smiles and energy, their breath, even their smell.
This is sport and this is youth. It’s not like in a TV commercial, where everybody is happy and smiling, running on sand beaches, swimming in a crystal blue sea, skiing down the Alps while having a campaign for a magical multivitamin drink that makes you look like Brad Pitt - or Sandra Bullock, according to your preferences. Neither is it about organizing round tables and conferences, writing and reviewing all strategic documents and agendas with the same empty phrases and sentences, discussing polices, networking, monitoring key milestones, delivering key objectives and promising sustainability and equal access to all. If you repeat a thousand times “recognition and validation of competences, promotion of sport, capacity building, quality assessment”, things will not change. You can remember only things that had happened, not the ones we agreed on in the documents.
So, don’t blindly follow agendas and listen to speeches - criticize them. Especially criticize those who excessively repeat sustainability, accountability, transparency, monitoring, quality control measures, deliverables, interdependencies, stakeholders, decision makers. And those who repeat the phrase “never before”, because it all happened before. And also the ones who are watching you from the front cover of a glossy magazines because they will filter out the “good” stories using their usual tricks, but I am not sure if they actually want to spread and share their ideas.
Don’t get me wrong, I honestly believe that people who create agendas and polices have the will to change things, but they are not the ones to decide. It has all become one big business. And politics.
Find the way to walk through the closed doors. Be creative, passionate, be humble, go out and listen, break the rules. Don’t borrow opinions, make ones and defend them with your hands, feet and nails. Fail. Fail many times. Keep the sails going no matter the direction of the wind. Never lose your identity. Don’t believe in great promises, too often they just stay on paper. Don’t trust me either. Have respect for others and you will be respected.
You don’t need to be a professional athlete to enjoy sports. You don’t need to be the best. You don’t even have to compete. Because it’s not about competing, it’s simply about being a part of it. You don’t need to be earning nine digit salaries to play footie or basketball with your friends on Friday afternoon.
I have never seen so much fighting, effort, will, defiance and finally smile and happiness as when someone was told “it’s not possible, you will not succeed.” This is what gets my adrenaline high. This is what sport is all about. Without empty phrases, complicated words, without copy/paste, without citations, without big quotes. Only empirical, only core, no metaphors.
Oh, and I almost forgot… Why 0/6022?
0/6022 – the exact number of words the President of the European Commission Mr Jean-Claude Juncker dedicated to sport in his State of the Union speech on September 14th, 2016. And European Commission is about to implement an effective cut of the Youth Employment Initiative funding from €6 billion over 2014-2016 to €2 billion for the next four years.
Head of Games Operations Rijeka
European Universities Games Zagreb - Rijeka 2016
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