The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, addressed today the online 2021 EU Sport Forum organised by the European Commission. This year, the theme of the two-day annual forum is “Towards a healthier, resilient and sustainable European sport”, and the event has brought together hundreds of high-level participants from EU Member States and sports organisations, as well as academics and athletes.

Following an opening address by Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, who spoke about the main priorities and challenges in the field of sport at EU level, President Bach stressed in his video message the contribution of sport beyond physical and mental health, in particular in this unprecedented period where the world is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. “The coronavirus pandemic has changed our world in fundamental ways. Even once we have finally overcome the health crisis, we will face its far-reaching social, financial, economic and political consequences,” he said. “Sport has a great social significance by being the glue which bonds communities together. Sport has a great economic significance by creating jobs and generating an important contribution to GDP. This essential role of sport has been recognised by many in the international community, from the EU to the United Nations, and many others.”

He went on: “This is why sport must prepare for this new world and be ready to contribute to rebuild a more human-centred and inclusive society. In order to address the challenges of the future, we need a vision of how this new post-crisis world will look. For this reason, the IOC recently adopted a new strategic roadmap, called Olympic Agenda 2020+5. This new roadmap emphasises one important lesson that I hope we have already learned from the crisis: we need more solidarity. More solidarity within societies and more solidarity among societies.”

For a sustainable world through sport

The President also highlighted how the IOC is committed to addressing the climate change crisis by minimising its ecological footprint, protecting the environment and raising awareness about its importance. In addition to Olympic House being one of the most sustainable buildings in the world, the IOC is creating an Olympic Forest, which will contribute to the UN-backed Great Green Wall project in Africa and will help the IOC move towards becoming a climate-positive organisation by 2026. In addition, all Olympic Games will be climate positive at the latest from 2030 onwards. “With regard to the Olympic Movement, the IOC will continue to support International Sports Federations and National Olympic Committees in their transition towards carbon neutrality. The UN Sport for Climate Action Framework plays a central role in this respect and includes 100 EU-based organisations among its over 200 signatories,” said the IOC President.

Building social inclusion

The role of sport in building a more inclusive society and in fostering gender equality was also highlighted by President Bach in his address. Thus, the participation of the Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – for which the team composition was announced today, 8 June – “will once again send the clear message that refugees are our fellow human beings – that they are an enrichment to society, just as they are an enrichment to our Olympic community”.

Also stressed by the President was the IOC’s commitment to gender equality. “Gender equality is not just an issue of fairness. Gender equality is part of the good governance of any organisation. We are pursuing gender equality with full engagement.” This is the case both on the field of play, where gender parity will be achieved at the Olympic Games Paris 2024, and off the field of play.

In concluding, the IOC President recalled that solidarity is at the heart of the European Sport Model and that it is necessary to strengthen this model, its values and its robust solidarity funding mechanisms so that it “can make a significant contribution to the post-crisis recovery by mobilising volunteers and by promoting more solidarity within communities and among countries”. He reiterated the Olympic Movement’s readiness to enhance the existing cooperation with the European Commission and the 27 EU Member States in order to address the challenges of the future.