Dear friends,

Good morning.

It is a pleasure to open the 2021 EU Sport Forum.

Even more so as last year’s edition – we all remember - was cancelled due to the pandemic.

I would like to thank President Bach, Minister Brandão Rodrigues, and Tomasz Frankowski, co-chair of the Sport Intergroup of the European Parliament for being with me this morning to open the Forum.

I would also like to thank all the participants who will intervene over the next two days in our plenary sessions and workshops.

And finally, thank you – the audience – for being so numerous!

You all know that the EU Sport Forum, next to the European Week of Sport, is one of our main flagship initiatives in Sport.

It is a moment when we are all together.

These next two days will serve to rebuild the connections that were left unattended in the last year and a half.

Today the focus will be on “A resilient and sustainable sport across Europe”.

Tomorrow our discussions will tackle “Health and Inclusive sport across Europe”.

After successive lockdowns, with many of us forced to be apart from loved ones, we now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The sport movement was hit hard by the pandemic. So many of us still feel it.

From grassroots to elite organisations, the movement faced major financial and organisational difficulties.

Athletes and coaches had to transform their training programs, not being able to meet, or facing cancelled competitions.

For the first time since World War II, the Olympic Games were cancelled and rescheduled.

It doesn’t get more symbolic than that.

Yet, despite this sense of disruption, the sport movement did not let us down.

Sport and physical activity allowed us to keep calm and carry on. 

It maintained our physical and mental balance.

We witnessed the enormous creativity of our citizens in exercising.

Creativity that we recognized with our #BeActiveAtHome campaign.

The challenges and lessons learned from Covid will indeed be one of the topics addressed during the Forum.

Now looking to the future, I see two major driving forces that can be harnessed: sustainability and innovation. 

This crisis has forced us to reorganise community activities – from small neighbourhood sport classes to big international events.

This presents an opportunity to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

This shift requires us to work together, share expertise and best practices, so we do it right from the start.

That is why I am setting up a dedicated Expert Group, to issue recommendations for a common framework for sustainable sport.

They will reflect on:

  • greener infrastructure and events,
  • innovative cross-sectorial solutions to limit the negative impact of sport on the climate,
  • how sustainable sport practices can be better promoted,
  • the implications of the European Climate Pact for the sport movement.

At the same time, a lot of these changes will imply innovation, our second driving force.

Innovation as regards new ways of increasing citizen’s participation in sport and physical activity.

Innovation also in terms of enhancing the socio-economic side of the sport movement, for example with new business models.

Innovation of course, using science and research to improve health and sustainability in and through sport.

The Council adopted Conclusions along this line a few weeks ago. And I want to thank once again Minister Brandão Rodrigues for his leadership in this regard.

On my side, I am committed to leveraging EU programmes like Erasmus+, Horizon Europe, Digital Europe, EU4Health or the Cohesion Funds to help the sport sector moving forward.

You all know that, last month, the European Parliament formally adopted the new Erasmus+ programme.

Its sport chapter will have a crucial role.

Helping grassroots projects lift off, bringing us together, and developing good practices that can later be mainstreamed.

In particular, the programme will be more user-friendly, with a reduced bureaucratic burden and with a focus on inclusion. This will allow for smaller organisations to participate even more.

Sport will have a dedicated budget of EUR 470 million from now until 2027 – this is almost double what we had to work with last time around!

This year 41.6 million are foreseen.

You all know that the calls for proposals are still open until 17 June. So don’t forget to apply!

Ladies and gentlemen,

People in Europe have endured a difficult year. They relied on us for comfort and stability.

And the sport sector has not disappointed.

Still, we have a lot to do. A lot of opportunities remain to be seized.

Along this line, I will launch the HealthyLifestyle4All initiative, during the next European Week of Sport.

I want to continue building on the cross-sectoral approach of the Tartu Call for healthy lifestyles, addressing health, physical activity, and nutrition together.

We will establish a community of practice across generation and social groups.

I will give you more information on this point tomorrow!

Before I conclude, let me remind the importance of the European model of Sport.

We have built a cohesive community on values like inclusion, autonomy, openness and solidarity. European sport brings together grassroots and elite sport, building synergies between them, and building on the interdependence of our sports federations.

This is something that we cherish.

Whether we live through the triumphs of our team, or our own triumphs in the pitch or in the track, we stand united as a movement.

In just three days, the long awaited UEFA EURO 2020 Football Championship will finally kick-off in Rome.

I hope that this competition stands as a new start for the European sport sector.

It will be a deserved joyful break for all sport and football fans.

This is what we are working towards.

Thank you all for being here, and I wish you a great Sport Forum!