Speech President Mrs. Anna Arzhanova - European Parliament

confederation 05.10.2016

Before giving the speech Anna Arzhanova informed UP about CMAS and its activities. She told that CMAS is an International Federation that manage the underwater activities in the scientific, technical and sport fields.

CMAS was created in 1959 in Principauty of Monaco under the will of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, its first president.

At the beginning it was a scientific organisation with the goal to know and protect the marine life. Cousteau said “We have to protect what we love”.

Today CMAS is recognized by UNESCO as an important NGO for the underwater archeology and the protection of underwater marine environnement and heritage.
To secure the divers in this particular environnement CMAS created the first standards in the world and become the first organism of certification in diving.

In the 60's CMAS started to develop underwater sport activities such as finswimming and orienteering, then apnea, hockey, rugby, sport diving, underwater photography.

Today CMAS has almost 100 affiliated countries and thousands athletes who participate in World and continental championships.. CMAS is a member of SportAccord, ARISF, IWGA and recognized by the IOC.

Introduced as a reference figure in the world of sport, Anna Arzhanova spoked in front of the Commission for culture, education, sports and youth at the European Parliament last 27 September in Brussels, during the convention "The universal language of sport". Talking about Arzhanova, the Commission's president Silvia Costa underlined the increasingly influential position led by Arzhanova in the world of sport, a major point of refererence for women in sports.

The need to understand the sport as a great moment of social inclusion, a vehicle through which to reach every corner of the world to transmit educational messages, pushed Silvia Costa to organize the convention. Among the speakers, Mike Peters, chief of staff of the president of the International Paralympic Committee, Raffaele Chiulli, UIM (World powerboating) and ARISF president, the association representing 35 international sports federations recognized by the IOC, Gian Francesco Lupatelli (president of ACES, European Capitals and Cities of Sport Federation), Massimo Achini for world volunteers organization CSI and Marc Tarabella, Sports Intergroup co- president.

CMAS Mrs. President in Bruxelles - European Parliament:

Anna Arzhanova said:

When I received the invitation to come Brussels and give a speech on “women in sport” I was delighted and pleased.

So, first of all, please allow me to thank Ms. Silvia Costa – the Chair of the European Parliament Committee for Sport, Culture, Education and Youth – as well as all the MPs who are here today for such an opportunity to share my view with you all.

“Women in sport” is a very vast theme, which goes from the practice of sports to the management of sport in the widest possible meaning.

For hundreds of years, women have been deemed fit for very few sports. In some cases, they were thought of being unfit due to their physical weakness. In some others, instead, due to the danger entailed by hard training. In all cases, simply because we were deemed more fit to take care of our families and hence doomed to be mothers, wives and ...housewives.

Only in recent times, and particularly in the 20th century and onwards, women have
achieved access to typical men’s sports such as boxing, rugby, and football. At the same time, women have been accessing managerial positions in sport.

I believe that this is not because at a certain point in time men woke up and found out that we are the same. And I want to depart of usual women’s statement saying: WE ARE THE SAME, THEREFORE WE DESERVE THE SAME. We are different, we can think different and we can approach problems differently and provide solutions by thinking otherwise. And this is a value that has to be delivered to our society, made of both men and women. In my opinion this is the key to implement the equality of gender claims.

Also in practicing sport for an example, in recent times women have been achieving considerable results, not only in terms of performance, but also media and communication-wise. I could mention so many example that I would take all your time to finish. But, just to give you a glimpse, think of the Williams sisters in tennis, or Federica Pellegrini in swimming etc. These are all outstanding athletes who also have a great communication appeal.

Alongside these examples, there is a vast movement that enhances the role of women in sport on a large platform.

Great Britain — as an example — is trying to make the most of the exceptional results obtained in Rio in the area of team sports. Women in Sport (www.womeninsport.org) has launched a series of events in the frame of the "Insight: On Tour" initiative consisting in workshops and online debates, which will cover the whole Country with a view to sharing the recent achievements and explore new frontiers. According to Women in Sport, Rio’s achievements inspired millions of men and women in the UK.

Women’s sports also had exceptional media coverage and visibility. Instead of sitting back and enjoying such results, they thought of making the most of Rio’s momentum by offering support to all partners, both team and individual sport organisation, in order to capitalise on said achievements. This will allow passing on an important heritage to tomorrow’s women and men athletes.

I mentioned Great Britain, because it is a clear example in terms of number of women in the top management, with undisputable achievements. This does not only apply only to women practicing sport, but as I said also in managing sport and related industries, including journalism. That was the case, for instance, for Barbara Slater, Head of the BBC Sport desk; or for the decision made by the Independent on Sunday to publish the list of the 50 most influential British female athletes. Of course, many more barriers need to be eliminated. In fact, today, it is still unimaginable that a woman may become the Head of Organisations such as Fifa, Uefa, Iaaf, or the IOC. However, in the United Kingdom, they are trying to assign positions in all sectors, regardless of gender. According to the Independent, in 2015, the most influential women in the British sport world was actually Ms. Slater, who was responsible for 20,000-hour global coverage, of the scheduling and the TV coverage of the 2012 London Olympics. And for the third time in history, the UK Minister for Sport is a woman, Tracey Crouch. Those positions were not assigned by chance as, before the Parliament, Clare Balding – a former equestrian and, today, a broadcaster – explained that the liberty and possibility to practice sport allow women to feel politically free. In America, according to Forbes, 54-year old Lesa France Kennedy is the most powerful woman in sports. She is the granddaughter of Bill Frances r., the creator of NASCAR), and the CEO of the International Speedway Corporation (ISC), with some 1,000 employees and an income of more than 700 million dollars a year. For 30 years, Lesa has been guiding the expansion of ISC beyond the southern States, by building or acquiring racetracks in Illinois, New Jersey, California, and in many other States. More than anything else, Lesa Kennedy inspires other women who have started their journey in the world of sport management. Instead, 59-year old lawyer Michele Roberts was appointed as the Executive Director of the National Association of basketball players. She was the first woman to hold a top-management position in the US world of professional sport. And just like BBC, ESPN is also headed by a woman, that is, 59-year old Christine Drissen, Executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer. Mrs. Drissen – who was a key actor in the launching of the other ESPN2, ESPNEWS, and ESPNDeportes channels – is in charge of supervising the world richest network`s activities related to the recent purchasing of the Baseball Major League, NFL Monday Night, and football NCAA broadcasting rights. Val Ackerman is a lawyer, but she was also for 4 years a regular player in the Virginia female basket team. She was the President of USA Basketball and, for a long time now, she has been the right-hand of NBA Commissioner David Stern, who asked her to lead the Big East. Another woman, Lisa Borders, is the President of the WNBA. Katrina Adams, will go down in history as the first woman, the first former professional player, the first African-American, and the youngest President of the US Tennis Association. Adams is also the President of the US Tennis Open. Erin Andrews is the most well-known US woman journalist. She has recently left ESPN to its main competitor, Fox Sports. She has been following, from the courtside or the ringside, the college football championships, the Dayton 500 miles, and an infinite number of NFL Super Bowl and MLB World Series events. 

I also wish to highlight that the Women's Sports Foundation – which was established in 1974 by tennis legend Billie Jean King – aims at giving access to sport to all girls, so to create future leadership. However, the first result obtained by giving all girls the opportunity to do sport is that of allowing them to improve their lifestyle. Actually, Women's Sport makes funds available allowing future champion women to train. In practical terms, through sport, tangible support is provided to the world of women. 

The role of the Women in Sport Commission is to advise the IOC Session, the IOC Executive Board and the IOC President on the development and implementation of the IOC women and sport policy and to promote equal opportunities for girls and women to participate in, and benefit from sport and physical activity. Through the Women in Sport Commission, the IOC pursues the following goals: 1) The development and implementation of an IOC women in sport strategy; 2) Advocacy for increased participation of women athletes in the Olympic programme and in leadership positions in the Olympic Movement; 3) Recognition of achievements of individuals and organisations promoting women in and through sport, including through the Women and Sport Award; 4) Development and dissemination of IOC’s position on women and sport issues, and monitoring and regularly reporting on the progress of the Olympic Movement in meeting gender equality; 5) Promotion of the use of sport as a tool for gender equality and empowerment and raising awareness of harassment and abuse in sport; 6) supporting the development of women’s skills in management and leadership within the Olympic Movement, including through training, seminars, workshops and mentoring; 7) Support of local projects benefiting girls and women, including through providing grants for IOC women and sport awardees to implement identified projects. The IOC is committed to trying and reaching equal participation of women in sport. In 2012, only 24 of the 134 IOC members were women. 

Furthermore, I would like to highlight that in 1996, after leading the US National basket team to the Atlanta Olympics gold medal, Tara Van Derveer said: "The people in the arena who saw what might have been the best 40 minutes of basketball played by the best women's team in history couldn't know what had gone into those 40 minutes. It was not only a year of gruelling workouts and exhausting travel, but decades of women--and men--selling cupcakes to buy uniforms, hounding athletic directors for scholarships, refusing to accept second-class status, believing in the game and in women when there wasn't even a national tournament, much less an Olympic one”. In 1900, 22 women participated in the Olympic Games for the first time ever, only for tennis and golf. Instead, in 2012, in London, women accounted for 44% of the overall participating athletes, and the introduction of the Women Boxing tournament led to the elimination of one more barrier. In 1978, the US passed a law (the Amateur Sport Act), asking the National Olympic Committee and the Government to act in a non-discriminatory manner, thus ensuring equal opportunities. In 1998, another change was introduced by eliminating the requirement for athletes to have amateur status in order to take part in international sport events. 

In conclusion, as I stated at the beginning of my speech, women’s added value in sport (and in many other fields) is by paradox in our diversity and in the treasure we may deliver by simply being and thinking otherwise. And with the same consideration and the same opportunities we may show our value and deliver it to the growth of our society. 

I would like to conclude by making an appeal and endorsing a “We can” initiative. Today, Europe is facing an emergency. Although it might be hard to believe, it has to do with ensuring equal rights and equal dignity within the sport movement. The crisis produced by the significant migration flows towards Europe from war Countries also involves sport. The IOC gave a strong integration message at the Olympic Games in Brazil, with the refugee team, who competed under the five-ring flag. One can get to compete at the Olympic Games only if special programmes and funding are made available, so to allow athletes to reach performances that may lead them to the podium. Girls belonging to a wide variety of ethnic groups reach our coasts by boat; some of them lost their parents during their terrible journeys of doomed hope. It would be advisable to immediately convey a strong integration message, which should come from Europe in cooperation with the IOC. This could bring hope, also actively involving the many existing associations dealing with integration and equal rights in sport. A fund could be made available for those children, allowing them to practice sport in the best clubs and associations. And among those kids that today are fleeing war zones and are dreaming of a normal life in Europe, there could be the champions of future Olympics. They could compete under the flag of the European Union. That way, besides medals, we could celebrate an achievement of civilization, of the people, of actual United States of Europe. While holding their medals, they will maybe enthusiastically sing the “Ode to Joy”.

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