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Shaping future sports diplomats 59th International Session for Young Participants
The 59th International Session for Young Participants was held from the 1st to the 15th of June 2019 with the participation of nine lecturers, 17 coordinators and 156 young participants from 86 different countries worldwide. After the official opening ceremony of the Session which was held at the Hill of Pnyx and attended by H.E. the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Prokopios Pavlopoulos and the IOC President, Dr Thomas Bach among others, the participants travelled to the IOA premises in Ancient Olympia through Delphi. It was there, that they got to spend eleven days, learning, sharing, practising sports and having fun!The main topic of the Session was “Olympic Diplomacy and Peace” while the special topic was “Olympic Diplomacy: How can Olympic Sports play a positive role in international diplomacy”. Nine eminent lecturers explored various aspects of the subject: George Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece and Vice-Chairperson of the International Olympic Truce Foundation spoke on “Olympic Truce as an international institution”. Starting off by making a brief reference to the history and evolution of Olympic Truce he then gave an insight into the work done by the International Olympic Truce Foundation and Centre, which were created by his initiative, both on a diplomatic as well as on an educational level.
He underlined the role of sport and Olympic values in the promotion of peace and understanding among people and analysed the example of the PyeongChang Olympic Games.Dr J. Simon Rofe from Great Britain made a lecture on “Understanding sport as a tool for diplomacy” through which he argued that diplomacy can provide an underpinning contribution to understanding the world of Sport, and at the same time the conceptual framework of Sports Diplomacy allows the realm of sport to contribute to broader diplomatic practices.
Dr Dionyssis Gangas from Greece gave a speech on “Olympic Movement as a soft power in diplomacy” focusing on how sport diplomacy and politics can achieve peacebuilding through image-building, building a platform for dialogue, trust building and reconciliation, integration and anti-racism. He also described the evolution of the relationship between politics and sport and how the Olympic Movement seems to have finally found its own independence in becoming a respected soft power in international politics after a long period of political interventions in sports.Mr Yves Le Lostecque, Head of Sport Unit at the European Commission, spoke on “The external dimension of the EU sport diplomacy”, covering topics such as the place of sport in the EU policy, the objectives and activities of the EU, the concept of EU sport diplomacy, recent policy developments in sport, the example of bilateral cooperation in the case of the China dialogue, the Erasmus+ programme and its international dimension, EU funding tools, the European Week of Sport and other EU pilot projects, specifically that of mobility exchanges.Dr Beatrice Garcia from Spain gave a lecture on “The cultural Olympiad as a platform for cultural diplomacy and representation” by putting emphasis on the importance of artistic expression to advance cultural diplomacy, and the way this manifests in the context of the Olympic Games, in parallel to educational and sporting activities. She underscored the value of the Cultural Olympiad for diplomacy and representation and referred to key moments of various Olympic Games across time that served as defining examples of cultural representation.Dr Gelly Aroni from Greece made a presentation on “Sport and an active society without walls.
Social inclusion of refugees through sport and physical activity”. Her presentation was greatly inspired by her work in the coordination and monitoring of refugee education and offered a valuable insight on how we can educate youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and thus contribute to building a peaceful and better world even in the midst of a deep economic, political and migration crisis such as the one we currently experience.The IOA Honorary Dean, Prof. Konstantinos Georgiadis’ lecture on “The Olympic Games and Peace” explored the notion of peace and offered a retrospective of the steps taken towards the Olympic Movement’s contribution to peace starting from the establishment of Olympic truce in ancient times and moving on to our days where the IOC, the United Nations, National Olympic Committees and Academies as well as the International Olympic Academy and the International Olympic Truce Centre have succeeded in implementing Olympic truce in communities through Olympic education programmes and initiatives.Dr Ian Brittain from Great Britain delivered a lecture titled “Paralympic Games: Promoting human rights and development”.
He examined the possible links between the Paralympic Games, the Paralympic Movement and human rights. He subsequently explored the notion of ableism, and the direct, cultural and structural violence toward people with disabilities as well as the notion of development and the implications that all the above might have for the Paralympic Movement and people with disabilities and he concluded by expressing his strong belief in the power of the Paralympic Games.Prof. Dr Benu Gupta gave the last speech of the Session on “Sport diplomacy: Panacea for what ails Asia”. She gave an overview on the relation between sport and diplomacy and examined the effectiveness of sports as a platform for diplomacy, especially in relation to the example of Asia and the ails that the latter faces today with the most indisputable being social discrimination and inequality.
This year’s Young Participants group proved to be particularly active and passionate. There were a lot of questions and debate in the lecture hall, long conversations at the discussion groups which resulted in insightful conclusions, inspiring and moving presentations from Olympians, plethora of sports and cultural activities but above all one could sense a strong feeling of camaraderie throughout the Academy. Hopefully, the Olympic spirit that the IOA inspired to the young participants will be omnipresent in their hearts and souls and will help them become the best ambassadors of the Olympic Movement.
“The main topic of the Session was ‘Olympic Diplomacy and Peace’.”