A number of important decisions concerning the future of the Olympic Movement in Europe were taken today by the 49th General Assembly of the European Olympic Committees (EOC).
The meeting, held online for the first time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, was organised by the EOC Head Office in Rome from the headquarters of the National Olympic Committee of Italy (CONI).
The General Assembly began with a minute’s silence for former EOC President Janez Kocijančič, who passed away on 1 June this year.
CONI President Giovanni Malagò provided a welcome address, followed by opening remarks from International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and EOC Acting President Niels Nygaard.
The IOC President spoke about how much the world has changed since he last addressed the General Assembly in 2019, but added that the Olympic Movement had used the pandemic as an opportunity to make sport more relevant in society than ever.
"We seized the opportunity at the very beginning of the crisis to sign a cooperation agreement with the WHO that is widening the scope of our work together," President Bach said. "We undertook many efforts on the political front to emphasize the important role of sport in this crisis, the important role of sport for physical and mental health.
"And this has been widely acknowledged. We have seen UN resolutions supporting us in our efforts. We have seen the European Union emphasizing this important role of sport and many, many other intergovernmental organisations and governments. Most recently, the leaders of the G20 expressed their recognition and their will for cooperation with the IOC and Olympic Movement and also supported very much the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 and the Winter Olympic Games Beijing 2022."
EOC Acting President Nygaard delivered an overview of EOC activities, including discussions with the Polish hosts of the Kraków & Małopolska European Games in 2023, the European Union, EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, and the G20. He also highlighted the seriousness of the political situation in Belarus, which has been negatively impacting the athletes, in particular those preparing to compete at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. He added that the EOC fully supports a recent IOC Executive Board decision to look further into the matter to protect Belarus athletes.
EOC Secretary General Raffaele Pagnozzi delivered a report on the activities of the EOC Office in Rome, taking the opportunity to introduce the idea of an EOC House at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and announcing that next year’s General Assembly in Greece will be moved from October to April.
The General Assembly approved the audited 2019 financial statements and budget for 2021, presented by EOC Acting Treasurer Peter Mennel, and were informed of the appointment by the ExCo of new external auditors, Crowe Bompani SpA.
Reports were also given by ANOC Secretary General Gunilla Lindberg and IOC Director of NOC Relations Department & Olympic Solidarity James McLeod. McLeod informed the 50 NOCs of Europe that the budget for NOC projects through Olympic Solidarity has been increased for the 2021-2024 period.
EOC Executive Committee Member Jean-Michel Brun delivered a presentation on the European Sports Model highlighting three key points: the need to get the governments of Europe to take action, the requirement that for a unified model to be successful there needs to be active involvement of the ENOCs, and that the IOC continues to stand up for the interests of the sports movement. Work will continue by the EOC to identify possible paths forward to continue pushing the importance of the European Sports Model in the future.
Coordination Commission Chair for the 2023 European Games Kraków & Małopolska Hasan Arat provided a detailed progress report for the 3rd edition of the Games. Main points included the establishment of weekly CoCom meetings, the preliminary list of agreed sports, discussions between the EOC and sports federations, and a virtual meeting with EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel. He also underscored the importance of two meetings the EOC has held with the leadership of the Kraków & Małopolska Games this year.
"We have been very impressed by the passion and commitment of our Polish friends and especially the executive leadership," Arat said. "Poland has great sports infrastructure and the minor improvements that are needed will benefit the people of the area for generations to come. These European Games will be sustainable and self-sufficient."
A presentation on preparations for the Games was then delivered by members of the Kraków & Małopolska organizing team that included a closer look at the proposed venues and sports clusters.
The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of two changes to the EOC Articles of Association. The first amendment ensures that elections be held at the next scheduled General Assembly at the latest "should the President or any Officer(s), or other elected member(s) of the Executive Committee" cease for any reason to hold office during their term of office. The amendment means that elections for the entire EOC Executive Committee will be held at next year’s General Assembly in Greece on 16 April.
During the GA, Acting President Nygaard and ExCo Member Spyros Capralos both announced their candidacies for EOC President.
The second proposal, tabled by the Olympic Federation of Ireland, was aimed at aligning the EOC Executive Committee with Olympic Agenda 2020 proposals for gender parity in sport. From the next EOC elections onward, a minimum of five of the elected 16 members on the EOC Executive Board must be of each gender, while procedures for such elections shall include provisions to ensure the minimum gender number is met.
EOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Gerd Kanter then unveiled a new trophy for the Piotr Nurowski prize presented annually to Europe’s best young summer and winter athletes.
The General Assembly selected biathlete Linda Zingerle (ITA) as the winner of the 5th Winter Piotr Nurowski Prize. Zingerle won the award ahead of runner-up Lisa Hirner (AUT), nordic combined; Matej Svancer (CZE), freestyle skiing; Gints Berzins (LAT) luge; and Jessica Degenhardt (GER) luge.
"I am really happy, really surprised and really honored," Zingerle told the GA. "I would like to thank all my coaches, teammates, friends and family who supported me over the years, without whom I wouldn’t be here today. Thank you all so much."
Zingerle won gold in the mixed relay and silver in the single mixed relay at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020. At the IBU Youth & Junior World Championship Biathlon 2020, she brought home an impressive hat-trick of medals - gold in sprint, silver in the women’s relay and bronze in the pursuit.
In addition to the newly designed Piotr Nurowski trophy, Zingerle will also receive a scholarship to support her training. The four runners-up also receive financial support from the EOC.
Meanwhile, Borjomi and Bakuriani (GEO) were presented as hosts of the 2025 winter edition of the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF), while Brno (CZE) was confirmed as host of the summer edition in 2025.
The GA concluded with a presentation from EOC ExCo Member Djordje Visacki on the EOC’s Strategic Agenda 2030, aimed at "giving the EOC leadership a clear road sign for the future while fostering closer cooperation between the EOC and the 50 ENOCs moving forward."
Visacki added that all European NOCs will be surveyed and consulted for input into Agenda 2030, the first phase of which will be presented next April at the 2021 General Assembly.
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