Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sports' Social Responsibility

I have just spent two days at the Valencia Summit, an interesting forum where leaders, managers, actors and regulators of major sport events discuss wide ranges of issues. Organised for the second consecutive year by the Noos Institute, it is a kind of Davos of sports.

The organisers had asked me to speak at a panel on Major events as promoters of sporting, social and environmental values. It has been for me a good opportunity to share some of my thoughts on Sports' Social Responsibility, based on my experience with the Madrid Olympic bid, Greenpeace's past involvement with the Sydney Olympics, as well as the battle to eradicate sports sponsoring by Big Tobacco.

I am glad I went. There is a lot of people willing to address societal issues related with major sports events. The majority of them want to do it genuinely, I think. Major sport events (like the 2007 America's Cup in Valencia) bring a mix of opportunities and risks. For the former to be optimized the latter need to be controled and minimized. This involves addressing the issues in earnest with all sorts of vested interests, from real estate developers to partners and sponsors, and of course with civil society organisations. The Valencia Summit has started to do this; if they are successful, it can make a real difference. This will require more cross-fertization with civil society organisations in the areas of environmental innovation and policy, sustainable equity and other social issues. But inviting people like Mel Young, the organizer of the Homeless World Cup, or me was a good start, this week.

Having not been to Valencia for (I think) 19 years, I was overwhelmingly impressed by Santiago Calatrava's new City of Arts and Sciences. I think that the last time I came to this city, it was on board a Greenpeace boat, in 1986. I remembered a grey city with a very grey harbour. In two decades, this has become a completely different city. I hope that everyone in Valencia is able to enjoy the dividends from these investments.

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