LEN Family meets President Antonio Tajani
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
Secretary General Mr Sparkes
Culture, sport and peace have been linked since ancient times.
Just think of the Olympic Games.
People came from all over Ancient Greece to watch athletes compete.
However, as city-states were often at war, travel was dangerous.
So what did they do? They would announce a ‘truce’ before the games to allow people to get to Olympia safely.
You could say sport was more important than war!
For millennia, sports have been a powerful tool to champion peace and our values.
It strengthens bonds and cooperation that go beyond national identities.
It promotes ideals of fair competition, respect and justice.
It teaches us the value of working with others, in a team, to achieve our goals.
Sports are a metaphor for surpassing challenges and prejudice, often via great sacrifices and against difficult odds.
This is why I am happy and honoured to be at the Congress of European Aquatics.
Let me stress the important role played by LEN, which governs aquatic sports in Europe.
You play a key role in making our continent’s athletes shine. Just look at the World Championships in Budapest in 2017: Europe won 60% of the medals.
These achievements would not be possible without LEN’s precious work behind the scenes.
Your 52 national federations create a sense of belonging, going beyond national identities. Thanks to LEN activities, swimming is becoming even more pan-European, uniting our continent, and electrifying millions of citizens!
Swimming, and sport bring many other benefits.
As Vice-President of the Commission, I launched an EU Platform bringing together representatives of all sport-related economic sectors and associations.
The aim was to go beyond the clear benefits sports bring to personal health and international cooperation, and focus on the EU economy.
The sports sector accounts for almost 3% of EU GDP.
It provides over 5.5 million jobs or 2.7% of EU total employment.
It contributes significantly to achieving EU strategic objectives.
Sports like swimming have a decisive impact on improving people’s health and the ninety million Europeans who swim know this well.
In Europe, estimates suggest that more than one third of adults are insufficiently active.
Physical inactivity is estimated as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.
It is responsible for about 3.2 million deaths every year.
Swimming does not only bring benefits on the long term.
On the short term, the development of swimming capacities can save the lives of hundreds of persons every year.
Drowning is a major cause of death and disability in the world.
In 2015, an estimated 360.000 people died from drowning.
It is the second most frequent cause of injury or death in children under 19!
Therefore, the development of swimming skills is essential as it saves countless lives every year.
This is why, as President of the European Parliament, I am proud to fully support the LEN project: "Learn to Swim and Prevent Drowning - Getting Europe Swimming Safely".
By learning to keep ourselves safe, we can save others too.
The European Parliament recognizes the important role of sport in the life of millions of EU citizens.
Amateur and professional sport is not just about achievements and competitions, economic benefits, physical and mental well-being.
It also contributes significantly to European society and education.
Sport is a shared language that goes beyond social, cultural, linguistic and generational barriers.
Words are good, but action is better!
To this end, the EU has developed a programme to support education, training, youth and sport: Erasmus +.
In the new EU budget, we want to double its the budget to 30 billion euros.
I support this strategy. I strongly believe that investments in sport is fundamental for society. There is strong evidence that sport drives local and regional development.
And all over Europe, sport is already part of strategies involving health, tourism, and urban planning.
If properly planned, hosting a major sport event can contribute to the development of a city or region.
As you experienced here, in Budapest, with the 2017 World Aquatics Championship.
Ladies and Gentlemen, LEN Members,
As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said,
“If you want to build a ship, don't ask people to collect wood. Don't give them tasks and work. But rather, teach them to long for the immensity of the sea”.
Sport can overcome walls and borders.
It can make dreams come true.
We must take the aspirations and energy of our citizens and build that ship for them.
They can count on my support, I hope that I can count on yours.
Thank you for your attention.