The Flagship Event of the European Week of Sport (EWoS) took place on Wednesday 9 September in Brussels with the active participation of the European Olympic Committees. The Event was dedicated to the role of sport in promoting tolerance and open societies in Europe, and brought together key supporters of the EWoS to debate issues and find solutions. At the beginning of the Flagship Event, Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, visited the Sport Village and stands of the participating organisations. Folker Hellmund, Director of the EOC EU Office, welcomed Mr Navracsics at the EOC Stand and presented him the activities of the EOC, especially the European Youth Olympic Festival, whose next summer edition will take place in Györ, Hungary, in 2017.
Meanwhile, four expert workshops were held to discuss topical issues such as “sport, education and employability”, “active work environment”, “access to sport across social groups” and “inclusive role of sport in our communities”. Niels Nygaard, member of the EOC Executive Committee, took part in the fourth workshop, which aimed to find answers on how sport can help in building inclusive societies. "Sport clubs can do a lot for social inclusion, but support and recognition by public authorities including the European Commission is needed," noted Mr Nygaard, summarising one of the recommendations of the workshop.
The European Commissioner for Sport, Tibor Navracsics, opened the final Conference with a statement in which he congratulated the organizers and participants, and underlined the importance of sport in European societies, especially regarding the current crisis: “Sport and physical activity bring people from different backgrounds together, helping to create friendships and building communities (…). It is about how we live together in our society, it is about people, their ideas, and their relationships”. Clarence Seedorf, former footballer and EWoS Ambassador, shared his own experience, explaining how sport can contribute to personal building, social inclusion and education.
Subsequently, the results of the workshops were presented, highlighting the role of sport in children’s development and in improving wellbeing and productivity at work, and presenting strategies to encourage citizens to practice sports and physical activity. Nevertheless, it was also pointed out that sport and especially grassroots sport need to be recognized across the different policy fields.
Following this presentation, a debate about “Sport and social inclusion” invited four participants to an exchange of views: Martine Reicherts, Director-General of the DG Education and Culture of the European Commission ; Alain Courtois, First Alderman of the City of Brussels ; Paula Radcliffe, seven times marathon champion and EWoS Ambassador ; and Jürgen Griesbeck, founder of Streetfootballworld. The debate underlined the political responsibility of the promotion of sport in recalling its multi-sectoral dimension. Moreover, the debaters agreed on the global impact of sport on our societies, particularly concerning the current refugees crisis, wherein sport can also play a crucial role.
The conference concluded with the EWoS Award Ceremony: three sport-related projects were rewarded for their work encouraging physical acitivity and using sport for social inclusion. The project “Sport for and with refugees” of TSV Wandsetal from Hamburg, nominated by the German Olympic Committee (DOSB), won the first Award, as the Citizen Ambassador Award was awarded to Berna Nijboer for her promotion of a healthy and active lifestyle among 5 to 12 years-old children. She had been nominated by the Netherlands Olympic Committee * Netherlands Sports Confederations (NOC*NSF) as National Coordinating Body for the Netherlands.