On 26 - 27 November 2018, the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport (EYCS) Council met in Brussels, focusing on two topics with regards to sport: major sporting events as drivers for innovation, and the economic dimensions of sport and its socio-economic benefits.
The two day meeting allowed for an afternoon session to focus specifically on sport, and included the input of Martin Kallen, CEO of UEFA Events; Heinz-Christian Strache, Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister for the Civil Service and Sport of Austria; Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Youth, Culture and Sport; as well as representatives from Member States who make up the EYCS Council. Kallen led the debate highlighting the major challenges and opportunities that the next edition of the UEFA European Football Championships (EURO 2020) faces. The event will be the first of a kind, with 12 hosting countries, and 12000 volunteers expected. The topic of mobility is wide reaching, from the new challenges UEFA will face, such as controlling all aspects of the event, to the tourist industry, with relative newcomers such as Airbnb likely to directly or indirectly be affected. All of whom have to comply with differing national rules and regulations whilst operating for the one event. With topics such as visa policy, environmental sustainability, and security, the mega sporting events of the future will need all stakeholders to pull together to ensure the event reaches its potential.
Alongside these challenges, there are opportunities. Mega sport events are often a showcase/testing ground for new technologies before they are filtered down into society. EURO 2020 will lead to advanced video and streaming technologies, as well as developing public infrastructure in host cities. Even on-field developments in sport could be seen, such as VAR introduced in the last FIFA World Cup. On a societal level, mega sport events provide education and training for volunteers and staff across the continent. For many, EURO2020 will be their first mega event, in which they will meet new people, learning about all aspects of the event, and develop skills, which in turn, could enhance the activities of their local sport communities. With 12 hosting countries of EURO 2020, it is hoped that the event will contribute to the promotion of sport at all levels across Europe. On a health perspective, mega sport events often increase participation of sport on local levels, leading to active and healthy society.
Key notes from Navracsics focused on the environmental impact of mega sport events. Research and innovation will be key in this sense, and called upon all mega events to keep legacy and environmental sustainability in their minds throughout the whole life cycle of such an event. As the debate opened up to the Ministers, they agreed that sport has major influence in many areas. Ministers noted national examples of the topic, and raised interesting questions on the synergy between sport, and research and innovation. An interesting thought from one delegation: The development of video and streaming services has led to the increase of online audiences for mega sport events. Therefore, should the notion that only larger countries are able to host a mega sporting event still exist? Navracsics closed the session by encouraging Member States to communicate and share their good practices with one another. Looking towards the future, Navracsics is hoping sport can become integral in the broader initiatives of the EU, including its inclusion in EU and national budgets.
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