The FIFA World Cup in Qatar gets overshadowed by escalating human rights discussions; war breaks out in Ukraine whereupon Russian and Belarusian athletes are banned from competitions; more and more abuse cases in sport come to light; the world is facing a climate crisis and the questions about the credibility of sport and its values continue to dominate the headlines: the Olympic Movement is clearly moving in stormy waters.
An era of change in sport is looming, one that threatens the integrity of the Movement on the one hand, but also allows it to move forward and evolve on the other. National Olympic Academies, in their role as the national advocates of Olympic Education, are responsible for the spread and preservation of Olympic values and ideals as well as for a thorough observation and discussion of past and present affairs in the Olympic Movement.
German Olympic Academy hosts the EOA Congress Frankfurt in 2022
Against this background, more than 50 delegates from all over Europe met for a four-day congress on 21-24 November 2022. In a blend of debates, exchange opportunities and the convening of the Fifth EOA General Assembly, the Association of European Olympic Academies provided essential impulses for ways forward and paved the way for its own development under a new Executive Board and strategic orientation.
The congress was held at the headquarters of the hosts, the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) and the German Olympic Academy (DOA), as well as in Deutsche Bank Park, stadium of football club Eintracht Frankfurt.
A memorable reunion in Biebrich Castle
More than three years had passed since the last conference in Cyprus, which made the reception at the opening dinner in beautiful Biebrich Castle even more warm and welcoming. The German Olympic Academy, as host of this year’s congress, had brought together the National Olympic Academies of Europe for the first time ten years ago by staging a symposium very close to this year’s venue.
Prof. Dr. Gudrun Doll-Tepper, Chair of the German Olympic Academy and EOA President Prof. Dr. Manfred Laemmer opened the event. As guests of honour spoke Michaela Roehrbein (German Olympic Sports Confederation), Jens-Uwe Muenker (German Federal State of Hesse) as well as Penelope Amelidou (International Olympic Academy) and Dr. Uri Schaefer (ICSSPE).
“We are witnessing a turning point in sports.”
The conference day started with two lectures on sports diplomacy and the possibilities of sport to have an influential impact on governments. Prof. Dr. Juergen Mittag from the German Sport University Cologne and Dr. J. Simon Rofe from the University of Leeds approached the controversially discussed reaction of the IOC and the Olympic movement to the outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine. Both academics emphasised that with these implemented measures, the IOC had reached a new political level and that the consequences could not be foreseen. However, there have been positive examples of sports diplomacy, such as the German-Israeli sports relations in the 1960s, the sports-related contribution of the Franco-German Youth Work or various friendly games between nations without any diplomatic ties.
The absolute need for more sustainability in Olympic sports organisations
Jana Janotova (EOC Commission for Sustainability & Active Society, Czech Olympic Committee) and Bianca Quardokus (German Olympic Sports Confederation) led the audience onto melting ice and argued that National Olympic Academies and Committees should aim to make their operations and events more sustainable and highlighted practical considerations through case studies. (For further reading, consult the ASAP project and the Green Champions platform).
Safe sport should be on the agenda of National Olympic Academies
“The hardest topic” of the day, as speaker Ingrid Beutler called it, was the integrity of sport through fair play and safe sports measures. Guest of honour Baiba Veisa, Vice-President of the European Fair Play Movement, an EOA partner, delivered a stimulating presentation on fair play as a way of preserving sports integrity, after which Ingrid Beutler and Kirsty Burrows (International Olympic Committee) addressed the reality of abuse in top-level sport. In a rousing and emotional way, the experts introduced approaches and strategies to protect and support victims, investigate and collect data on reports and improve prevention measures. In the following, the invited Academies suggested that the National Olympic Academies should be more involved in addressing the issue of abuse in sports.
“Walk the talk” in terms of human rights and Games awarding
In the final session, Stefan Klos (ProProjekt) and Dr. Alexandre Miguel Mestre (Abreu Advogados) dealt respectively with the Games Awarding Process and the new IOC Strategic Framework on Human Rights in order to take up the debate on the credibility of the Olympic Movement. While the former gave a deeper perspective on the shift in Olympic Games awarding “from a beauty contest to a targeted dialogue”, the latter analysed the IOC’s new Human Rights Framework and indicated to what extent these guidelines could be put into practice and what consequences this could have.
General Assembly paves the way for future developments
On 23 November 2022, the General Assembly convened in Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt. IOC President Dr Thomas Bach welcomed the delegates via video message and recalled the founder of the Olympic Movement, Pierre De Coubertin, and the crucial task of the NOAs to preserve the Olympic values and ideals “to make the world a better place”. EOC Executive Committee Member Jean Michel Brun emphasised in his cordial welcome to unite and work together for a long-lasting Olympics. A moment of silence was dedicated to the previously deceased members of the Olympic family, Dinos Michaelides (Cyprus) and Kalle Voolaid (Estonia).
The Board and the Commissions report on their work, the summaries of which will also soon appear in the 2022 Annual Report. The General Assembly passed the budget for 2023 and discharged the Executive Board.
The 30th member
The Maltese Olympic Academy was officially admitted to the EOA. David Azzopardi and David Guehring presented the Academy, which is integrated into the Maltese Olympic Committee and welcome the exchange with other members, which will be very beneficial for the Maltese.
Elections of the new Executive Board
No major surprises occurred in the subsequent election of the Executive Board for the next four years. The current President, Manfred Laemmer (Germany), was unanimously re-elected, along with General Secretary Marion Guigon-Lacroix (France). The new Treasurer is Bernard Hilgers from the Netherlands. Vice-Presidents Mariia Bulatova (Ukraine) and Ivans Klementjevs (Latvia) are serving their second term. New to the Board are also Clea Papaellina (Cyprus) and Asta Sarkauskiene (Lithuania).
EOA Strategic Plan 2023-2030
Jana Janotova and Ales Solar presented the content of the new Strategic Plan to the members, which was adopted with strong endorsement. The document will be published soon and lays the foundation for the development of the EOA over the next eight years.
EOA Medal of Merit and EOA Flame Award
With the approval of two new awards, the EOA holds two measures to recognise the work of the National Olympic Academies as well as outstanding individual achievements, respectively. The first EOA Flame Awards include the categories “Best Olympic Education Project” and “Best Olympic Heritage Project” and are to be handed out next year for the first time.
Perspectives for 2023
Looking ahead to the near future, further EOA seminars are in preparation, and several NOAs have indicated their willingness to host future EOA Congresses. As of 2023, the EOA will be involved in three EU projects, one of which it will lead itself. Building on the developments of the last four years, the EOA will continue its work diligently under the new Executive Board and Executive Director Soenke Schadwinkel, whose contract was renewed.
Intensive exchange in the workshops led by the German Olympic Academy
On Thursday, the congress came to a close with a series of workshops. Peter Fegers and Wiebke Arndt from the German Olympic Academy outlined the Academy’s activities and achievements and led into the workshop topics of Events, PR/Marketing, Olympic Heritage, Olympic Solidarity and Educational Materials. In small groups, the participants had the opportunity to compare and contrast their work and to share their experiences. It became clear once again that the work of the NOAs is highly dependent on the respective structures, relationship with the NOC and their leaders and areas of competence.
The delegates were exceedingly satisfied
Participants enjoyed the diversity of lectures and programme items and pointed out their satisfaction with the event’s organisation.
Gudrun Doll-Tepper said: “Despite the recent dramatic developments it is highly important to focus on positive events of collaboration, like ours here where we meet in the spirit of fair play, friendship and solidarity, jointly working for the promotion of Olympic values, philosophy and ideals. This applies in particular to our EOA family.”
EOA President Manfred Laemmer said: “A special mention belongs to the hosts, the DOA and the DOSB, as well as the staff team who did a tremendous job to make this event a success.”