On 23 September, the eyes of the whole of Europe are turned to Estonia, where the III European Week of Sport will be officially opened in cooperation with the European Commission, city of Tartu and Club Tartu Maraton, in connection with the XX Tartu Mountain Bike Marathon's childrens events. Tibor Navracsics, the EU Commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport explains how the initiative has taken off in Europe so far.
The European Week of Sport was initiated by the European Commission. What led to such an initiative being called into life initially and how has the initiative taken foothold in the European Union so far?
The European Week of Sport has a very simple aim: to promote sport and physical activity across Europe. We want to show people that sport is fun, that it helps us to feel better about ourselves and to make new friends. The many events taking place across Europe during the Week give people the opportunity to try something new – regardless of their fitness level, age or background. And they help to show how we all can make physical activity part of our daily lives, whether by joining a gym, gathering a group of people to play football in the park or simply by taking the stairs instead of the lift.
Member States and sport organisations have warmly welcomed the European Week of Sport. Indeed, the Week would not be possible without our many partners who organise events and help us promote this initiative. The Week is not a Brussels event. On the contrary, it combines national and local events with a Europe-wide communication campaign built on shared messages and tools. All of this is happening under the motto "#BeActive", encouraging people to get involved the Week, but to also stay active all year long.
What is the significance of the European Week of Sport in the EU and how many people take part in it?
I think the European Week of Sport is an excellent example of how an EU initiative can effectively complement and support good work that happens in local communities. Sport organisations and municipalities are best placed to promote physical activity. With our European Week of Sport, we support these efforts and bring them together, helping people and organisations across Europe use the power of sport to connect people. In 2016, 10 million people took part in more than 15,000 events across Europe. And I am confident that this year, we will see even better results.
The European Week of Sport also allows us to highlight and advance work on specific issues. This year, for example, I intend to launch a fresh drive to promote healthy lifestyles with my fellow Commissioners Vytenis Andriukaitis, responsible for Health and Food Safety, and Phil Hogan, in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development. We will bring together and reinforce our work in all these areas to encourage healthier lifestyles.
The 3rd European Week of Sport will be officially opened this year in Tartu, on 23 September, and the eyes of everyone in Europe will be on Estonia. Why was Estonia chosen as the place of Official opening for the week and what are the Commission’s expectations in connection with the Sports Week being opened in Estonia, in particular?
The Week is very much about involving people where they live, in their community. That is why it makes sense to open it outside of Brussels, in a Member State. Estonia is currently holding its first Presidency of the Council of the EU. And Tartu is a dynamic university city completely dedicated to the success of this launching event. So it was an easy choice!
I am looking forward to opening the Week in Tartu with my colleague, Vice-President Andrus Ansip, and to see and hear about the many events being organised in the city and the rest of the country. It will be interesting to see how this experience compares to last year, when I launched the Week in Kosice, Slovakia, and was really impressed by the enthusiasm and energy I saw there.
Estonia holds the Presidency of the EU for the first time this year. As her priority topic for sport, Estonia has chosen the role of coaches in society as teachers of values and skills, and has already in July held a Presidency conference on the topic to open a wider EU discussion. EU Work Plan for sport until 2020 also deals with this topic. How do you comment on Estonia’s choice of priority theme in sports and what is the EU ambition to reach with the issue of coaches?
I think that focusing on the role of coaches is an excellent choice. In fact, all Member States agree on the need to support and promote coaches: this topic is one of the priorities of the newly adopted EU Work Plan for Sport for the period 2017 to 2020.
I share the view that coaches have a much bigger responsibility today than they used to. Technical skills, sport expertise and knowing the rules of the game are no longer enough. This changing role of coaches has to be recognised. They have to be seen as educators because they can play a vital role in building human capital and cohesive societies.
Coaches at all levels, professional or grassroots, and including volunteers, must have social skills. They must be able to communicate values. Very often they are the closest persons to our children and young people, they are their role models, and they need to be prepared for this job.
You will also participate in the official opening of the European Week of Sport as well as in the other related Estonian Presidency events in the field of sport being organised in Tartu in September. What are your impressions and experiences with Estonia and Estonian culture?
I have had several opportunities to visit Estonia and I am always impressed. Every time I visit, I see how quickly Estonia is evolving. Your country fully deserves its reputation of being way ahead in all things digital.
Estonia is a place of unspoiled natural beauty – and rich culture. I have a major interest in the works of Arvo Pärt, and I intend to meet him when I come to Estonia for the opening of the European Week of Sport in September. It would be a great honour and pleasure for me.