European muscles. Literally.

Do you know who won the Olympics in London in terms of the medal count? If you think it was the United States then think again. In fact, the winner by medal count at the last Olympics in London (as well as earlier) was the European Union! Invincible athletes of the Member States of the European Union jointly achieved 305 medals (92 gold, 104 silver and 109 bronze), while their American counterparts collected a total of 104 medals (46 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze) (more information here and here). Even when translated into number of medals per capita, Europe remains in the lead with one medal for each 1.7 million citizens, where the Americans won one medal for every 3 million citizens.

So, you know that the European Union is an Olympic superpower. Now read what makes Europeans so very successful in sports and in what ways we work together to create a healthier and more sporty continent.

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Sir Chris Hoy, British athlete, celebrated his victory in London with the EU flag. Source: express.co.uk

 

Although the Olympic Committee has not yet considered medal count for the European Union as such, there is probably not one single EU capital, where you’d bump into a number of joggers when roaming the old town streets (although this phenomenon is probably less common in the cities in the South Europe). Europeans are generally active in sports, many of us engage in physical activity from an early age. Just who did not attend a sports group, gymnastics, or hiking group from an early age onwards. In the recent years we have seen countless sporting events take place in Ljubljana, Brussels, Berlin, London, Trieste and elsewhere, where both professionals as well as amateurs test their skills, measure their strength or simply enjoy a social event. European teams compete in basketball, football, handball and chess as well as other less “mainstream” sports. Numerous sports organizations exist in the Member States of the European Union (the list is available here), as well as international and European organizations (a list is available here) and European sports associations (list is available here).

SOME FIGURES IN STATISTICS. According to the 2014 Eurostat data, 58% of Europeans somehow engaged in sports, of which 48% for purposes of recreation such as biking from one point to another, dancing or gardening. In general, men are more often involved in sports activities than women, in particular in the age group of 15-24 years old, where 74% boys train regularly versus 55% of girls. As is probably to be expected, the share of physical activity decreases with age and at the age of 55, 71% of women and 70% men tend to give up sporting. The proportion of active citizens is however decreasing, therefore, the need to promote physical activity is paramount. Most (62%) of Europeans say they do sports to improve health. In addition, the main reasons for physical activity include being fit (40%), relaxation (36%) and entertainment (30%).

Europeans are not only active athletes, but also volunteers in sport. 7% of Europeans volunteer in the field of sports and more than a third dedicate at least six hours per month, while the share of volunteering is increasing especially in the area of ​​supporting sporting events.

SOME FIGURES IN THE ECONOMY. If we look at the economy and the role of sport in economic activity in Europe, the European Commission study shows that the added value of sport is at 1.13% or 1.76% in the case of a broader definition. This includes mainly organized sports (clubs, public venues, organization of events). In 2005, the direct impact on the EU economy was worth 112.18 billion euros or 173.86 billion euros. Maximum value added was recorded in the recreation sector, cultural and sporting services immediately after education and hotel and restaurant services. In addition, jobs in sports represent 2.12% or about 4.46 million employees. Most employees in the field of sport work in Germany (1.15 million), the UK (over 610,000) and France (over 410,000).

 MISTER ERASMUS ALSO DOES SPORT. For the first time in its history, the program Erasmus+ also includes the area of ​​sport. In this program, the focus is in particular on:

  • Addressing cross-border threats to the integrity of sport (eg. doping, agreeing on results, violence, intolerance and discrimination);
  • Promoting and supporting good governance in sport and dual careers of athletes;
  • Promoting voluntary activities in sport, including social inclusion, equal opportunities and raising awareness about the importance of physical activity for a healthy life through equal access to sport for all.

Erasmus+ in the area of sport is open to organizations as well as public bodies. More information on the funding is available here.

AND A BIT OF LAW. According to Article 6 of the Lisbon Treaty sport falls within the competence of the European Union, where it can support, coordinate and complement the activities of Member States. Furthermore, in Title XII, sport can be found alongside education, training and youth, highlighting a development of a European dimension of sport to support openness in sports competitions and cooperation between organizations in the field of sport . Also, the treaty stipulates that the EU will work towards protecting the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen, especially the young. The purpose of EU action is therefore to support actions of Member States and if necessary supplement it, underlines the European Commission in its Communication, which currently serves as a basic document for cooperation of EU Member States in the field of sport.

 At the end of 2013 the Commission also adopted a three-year work plan for the period 2014-2017, which sets out the key specific tasks related to the integrity of sport, sport in economy and sport in society. Starting this year, the European Commission plans to organize a European week of sport.

TO CONCLUDE. Despite incredible Olympic results, the Europeans can not escape the trend of the Western world, where physical inactivity is beginning to prevail. This not only adversely affecting our health, but subsequently (and in combination with an aging population) puts stress on our healthcare systems (Marusic et al.*). So, come on now! Quickly close your computer and go outside to walk, run, skate, whatever. Let’s exercise together for a more active, healthier and less stressful Europe!

* This post is dedicated to new young PhD doctor. Congratulations! 🙂

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Avtor: Špela Majcen Marušič

I am a Slovenian EU affairs analyst, proud member of the Charles Darwin promotion at the College of Europe with experience in the European Parliament and the UN Refugee Agency. I believe that a kinder world can be created through cooperation and understanding. We are not as different as we tend to believe. You can follow me on Twitter @SpelaMa.

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