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Opening Address

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Opening Address


Dear participants,
For about 60 years, the welcome of the Young Participants in the International Session of the IOA always took place on the Hill of Pnyx in Athens and then, in Ancient Olympia, next to the place that gave birth to the Olympic Games.
This year, the catastrophic pandemic that has struck humanity and continues to affect all parts of the world, some of them less and some of them more, obliges us to welcome you online, in an effort to preserve the legacy of this Session, as well as other annual educational activities of the International Olympic Academy.
It is a fact, of course, that our virtual gathering will not replace the uniqueness of getting together in the magic surroundings of Ancient Olympia. For this reason, in order to reward your participation in this online meeting this year, the IOA as decided to allow your exceptional participation in the 2021 Session, in our renovated facilities, if your Olympic Committee elects you again as its representative.
You will have the opportunity to experience for a few days this historic place, as thousands of other young people have done throughout the 60 years of the Academy’s existence.
The topic chosen for this year’s Session, “Human Rights, Diversity and Inclusion in Sport”, is one of the most controversial topics the scholars of the Olympic Movement have been concerned with. This is not because there is the slightest doubt as to whether the Olympic Movement believes in and supports the protection of human rights, as this is also envisaged as a fundamental Principle in the IOC Charter; such concerns pertain rather to the possible extent of this Principle’s application to every-day life in all societies!
From the time of Pierre de Coubertin to that of Avery Brundage, and then, from Juan Antonio Samaranch to Thomas Bach today, this issue and its political impact has raised concern, in all its aspects, among the university community, the world of sports, and largely the media.
The topic on which you will focus, in the following days, had already been selected by the IOA Ephoria, since the end of 2019.
At that time, we could have not imagined that a few months later, in May 2020, the assassination of African-American George Floyd, in the United States would spark an international debate on human rights advocacy and the condemnation of racial discrimination in every level of social life and even that of sports!
It is well known to all of us that the condemnation of racial discrimination in sport has, to date, raised concern in the IOC, in several cases, including those in South Africa and Rhodesia. The IOC’s position on non-involvement of sport in the ideological and political governance choices of various States is also well known.
Floyd’s assassination, in particular the way it took place, naturally enough, triggered reactions around the world. Inevitably, this led many athletes to react strongly, condemning this policy of discrimination and lack of respect for diversity, showing their solidarity and engaging in symbolic acts, such as “kneeling” at the beginning of many sport events.
Even last week, the withdrawal of Milwaukie Bucks from an NBA game, in protest of the assassination attempt on another African-American in Wisconsin, showed, in the most solemn way, that sport, as a spectacle, is determined to play its own role in the global “show” of condemnation of phenomena, such as those observed in the United States and in other parts of the world, which indicate a lack of respect for the individual and a violation of individual rights.
As expected, protesting against such acts that insult human dignity, even if they are not directly related to sports, has also “arrived at the doorstep” of the IOC and the Olympic Movement! A large group of athletes, members of the IOC Athletes Committee, formally requested a deadline to study and submit their views on the maintenance or amendment of the famous Article 50 para. 2 of the IOC Charter, of the taboo (as described) article, according to which, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
Do you think it is time for such a change in the Olympic Movement?Do you think it is time to talk, instead of political intervention in sports, about a possible intervention of sports in politics, aiming at enforcing respect for the Olympic Universal Values, not only in the field of sports, but also in social coexistence?
Rest assured that the excellent speakers who, in the coming days, will keep you alerted on this very topical issue through the IOA online platform, will thoroughly present all aspects of the problem and give you food for thought.
I wish you all good luck in the works of this special online Session for Young Participants of the IOA.

Article Author(s)

Opening Address
Mr Isidoros Kouvelos
IOA President
Visit Author Page

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Articles & Publications

News
-
Message

Article Author(s)

Opening Address
Mr Isidoros Kouvelos
IOA President
Visit Author Page

Articles & Publications

News
-
Message

Article Author(s)

Opening Address
Mr Isidoros Kouvelos
IOA President
Visit Author Page