While the event was initially planned to take place in Athens, the opening of the 16th Conference of Sport Ministers of Council of Europe took place virtually on 5 November.
The event was opened by Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, and Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Alternate Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece. Both emphasised the importance of human rights in sport and through sport, referring to the existing conventions on different issues linked directly or indirectly to sport (Convention of Human Rights, Macolin Convention, Istanbul Convention, etc.).
Several speakers then joined the Conference, starting first with French Minister of Sport Roxana Maracineanu who stressed the importance of physical activity in a period of lockdowns and restrictions, as well as the role of physical health in the fight against the virus. Furthermore, she talked about the French strategy during the two lockdowns regarding sport, highlighting that individual amateur sport, at least, was always permitted. On the topic of Covid-19 and sport, Christophe de Kepper, Director General of the IOC, also stressed that the sport movement was undergoing several challenges, but that one should not forget that “Sport is a low-cost tool to tackle social issues”. He directly mentioned the European Sport Model as a key concept, wishing it to be included in the new version of the Sports Charter.
Going more into the details of human rights and sport, Lefteris Avgenakis, Greek Deputy Minister of Sport, reminded of some crucial issues still to be solved, such as safety, integrity, doping, match-fixing and protection of children, - the latter also been highlighted by French Minister Roxana Maracineanu, - all topics which should be discussed deeper during the next conference in December. He also described some of the measures taken by Greece in the field, including the ratification of the Macolin Convention.
Gender equality in sport was not forgotten in the list of burning issues, and was illustrated by the testimony of Olympic Polish-American fencer Aleksandra Shelton, who called for more awareness campaigns and legal action in the field.
Last but not least, the importance of good governance in sport was reiterated, and linked with all previous issues mentioned. On the same afternoon, a session on the resolution on the European Sports Charter was organised. The Conference of Ministers is planned to adopt this resolution, together with another resolution on the human rights in sport, in the beginning of next year. Several speakers raised the importance to include a clear reference to the European Sport Model in the European Sports Charter. EOC EU Office has been actively raising this point throughout the whole process of the renewal of the Charter.
The next session of the Conference of Ministers Responsible for Sport will be organised on 7 December focusing on the resolution on human rights in sport. The Ministerial Round Table is scheduled to take place on 15 January 2021 to discuss both resolutions whereas the closing session is foreseen o11 February 2021.