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Sport can be used as a tool to inspire change | Global Sports Week 2021 recap

This year’s Global Sports Week (GSW) took place between 1-5 February 2021. The event was organised in a new, innovative format: the central base in Paris (Eiffel Tower), connected five hub events (in future Olympic cities: Tokyo, Beijing, Dakar, Milan and Los Angeles) and the participants, including ENGSO Youth committee members Lovisa Broms and Anett Fodor, through a groundbreaking virtual platform.


The event started with “warm-up” sessions, held on Monday and Tuesday (1-2 February 2021). According to Lovisa Broms, a session titled “Purpose in sport: a revolution happening at every level of the game” offered interesting insights and set a good starting point for further discussions and sessions that followed throughout the week. The panel, consisting of experts from three different organisations, 17 Sport, Oakland Roots and Common goal, discussed the importance of bringing purpose to the heart of the sport organisations. It was clearly stated that CSR (corporate social responsibility) is no longer enough and that it is necessary for sport businesses and organisations to not only sign pledges and frameworks but to also act and implement them. Neill Duffy, CEO and founder of 17 Sport, mentioned that true purpose is to build sustainable businesses and organisations so that they can face the next crisis.


A wide range of topics, focusing on everything from esports to the importance of high quality physical education (PE), were discussed on Wednesday, 3 February 2020. Many inspiring ideas were mentioned, related to topics such as event management, legacy, social inclusion, education and much more.


One of the more important debates from a youth perspective was a discussion on the role of sport and physical activity in education, in which it was clearly stated that it’s time to take PE seriously, as an equal part of the school’s curriculum. Physical activity was presented as a catalyst for the development of other important skills. The speakers stressed that it is of utmost importance that youth and children can count on schools to offer them a high quality PE. In this session, Gabriella Ramos, Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO, revealed that UNESCO has released two new action-oriented publications on quality physical education. ENGSO Youth highly appreciates the initiative as we strongly believe that all children and youth should have access to safe and high quality physical education. For information please see UNESCO’s latest two publications (toolkit/policy brief).


Another interesting session included a conversation on urban sports becoming part of the organised sport movement. The debate highlighted the need to welcome new sports in order to engage and make young people active and interested in sport. The importance of “grassroot influence” was highlighted as it is clear that in urban sports, the participants had and still have the power to shape how the sport is organised.


The session themed “Is physical inactivity the human climate change?” addressed the important questions on how to encourage and support people to choose a healthier lifestyle.


The fourth day of the Global Sports Week 2021 offered sessions discussing climate action, leadership, lifestyle, innovation and technology. Climate action is a strategic focus of ENGSO Youth, therefore we were pleased to see that this topic was the main discussion point of Thursday’s afternoon programme, on 4 February 2020.


The session “Sport: The new hope in the fight against climate change” did not only offer insightful discussions but also concrete calls for action. It was clearly stated that the sport movement has a crucial role in the battle towards climate change; it is not only about the sustainability of the sports movement but also about the society (as a whole). Sport can be used as a tool to inspire change!


We are very happy to see the active engagement and empowerment of youth in this event through the young sports makers programme and pleased to see that they were involved with the event as both - panellists and organisers. We believe that it is truly important to make ‘intergenerational’ decisions when it comes to sustainability, equality and other social, economical and environmental issues.


“I had a feeling that the ‘young sports makers’ were empowered to ask the experts the challenging questions. It is clearly a mission of the current leaders and decision-makers to make more sustainable decisions in the field of event management, entrepreneurship, as well as in sport and non-sport related industries”. - Anett Fodor


Sport is a strong tool to mobilise humanity to act on climate change. Sport should also be a solution provider and not a follower. Each part of the supply chain should realise that they are part of the problem and act responsibly according to it.


If we don’t act as soon as possible, we will eventually advise people to do sports indoors, because the air and the climate will be polluted, and not healthy at all.


Cardiovascular diseases, because of physical inactivity, will not be the first problem anymore – lung problems will take the top spot.


We have to act together as a society without being afraid of the financial cost which comes at the beginning. Soon sponsors, big companies and other stakeholders will follow and invest; there is no other way to move forward!


Our attendance at the Global Sports Week 2021 has truly encouraged us to stay on the track, making sure that young people get a real say in sport. With events like this, we can see that change is coming. We are not there quite yet and a lot still needs to be done, but we are moving forward! ENGSO Youth will continue working towards a future where purpose (to act and build, not just to sign and pledge) is at the heart of the sports movement. And we believe that we can only do this if we bring the youth perspective closer to the core values of the organisations and stakeholders.


The report was written by ENGSO Youth committee members Lovisa Broms and Anett Fodor


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