Informal Ministerial Networking Event: “How to promote the positive legacy of major sports events”

Sochi , 

Dear Minister Mutko,
Dear Ministers,
Distinguished guests,

I am delighted to be here in Sochi today, on the eve of one of the world's greatest sporting events.

I am very impressed by the installations in place and can already feel the excitement in the air. Not only should the Olympics serve as an example of international co-operation, athletic devotion, determination and excellence, they should also be a showcase of human dignity and integrity, open to all without discrimination.

"All sports for all people" as Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, so rightly put it.

The Council of Europe stands for peace and understanding. These values are also very dear to the Olympic movement. Later on today we will enjoy the releasing the doves of peace and the lighting of the Olympic flame to start the Games – symbols of peace and understanding among nations.

The Olympic Games, like other major sporting events, leave their own legacy: to the sports movement itself, to the host country, and of course to the spectators and citizens. 

We know that major sporting events provide the host country with an excellent opportunity to step onto centre stage and to send a message to the world. When they are well planned, implemented and supported by strategy and vision, they can also have long-term benefits for the economy, for society and the environment. This positive legacy is therefore very important.

Major sporting events also provide a powerful communication tool, and can make a real impact on public opinion. They can for instance influence how society deals with its own diversity. The Paralympic Games are a prime example – they represent the tip of the iceberg as far as disabled sport is concerned, but they can no doubt change society's perspective towards disability. Holding a major sports event provides the host with a unique opportunity to not only improve its country's infrastructure, but also to incorporate positive values into its policies and to educate people on the importance of competing with respect and friendship.

Dear Ministers,

Today's meeting is also an opportunity to update you on our Organisation's priorities in the field of sport.

The "Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport" of the Council of Europe has the mandate to help member States in the development of modern sports policies based on the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It brings together both governments and sports organisations — with the aim of making sport fairer, combating abuses in sport, and ensuring that sport conforms to high ethical standards.

Human rights, democracy and the rule of law must not remain abstract values. They must have an effect in the daily lives of citizens.  Through sport we learn to act as citizens with rights and responsibilities. We learn about fair play, ethics, respect and tolerance for oneself and others.  Our work in the field of sport aims exactly at that: translating values into the reality of sport. These values are the foundations of a tolerant and civilised society. They are indispensable for European stability, economic growth and social cohesion. Sport is an important tool to promote and educate future generations in the spirit of these values. 

Sport, human rights, democracy and the rule of law are interlinked in many ways. The Council of Europe's action against spectator violence and the fight against doping are eloquent examples.

The Council of Europe is also in the process of preparing a new European convention addressing the manipulation of sport results – also called the "match-fixing convention", which is yet another example of how the international community defends sports ethics and responds to the emerging threats to the rule of law.

Sport often needs a significant commitment from the public authorities, particularly when it comes to the hosting of a major sports event. Before you apply as a host, you must ask yourself not only whether your country's policies are up to the challenge, but also — and that is the topic of today's discussion — what the long-term benefits and liabilities will be. International co-operation between governments can surely help you to answer these questions.

To conclude, I would like to extend my warm thanks to the Russian authorities for organising this meeting in co-operation with the Council of Europe.

I wish the athletes from all over the world every success in these Olympic and Paralympic Games.