EP President Antonio Tajani gives full support to LEN’s Learn-to-Swim programme

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Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament met the LEN Family at the federation’s annual congress held in Budapest and gave his firm support to a new programme ‘Learn-to-Swim, Prevent Drowning’, presented by LEN President Paolo Barelli. The LEN Congress approved the reports on 2017, as well as some rule changes and welcomed the positive financial results. Two new Bureau Members were also elected.

Highlighting the important role European Aquatics is playing in the continent, the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani paid a visit to Budapest to meet the members of the LEN Family on the occasion of the 2018 LEN Congress. Accepting the invitation of LEN President Paolo Barelli, Mr Tajani gave his firm support to the federation’s new programme called ‘Learn-to-Swim, Prevent Drowning’.

According to recent statistics by the World Health Organisation (WHO), 27,000 people drown in Europe in every year, three in every hour, mostly children aged 3-12. LEN has launched this initiative targeting to decrease the number of the fatalities by at least 20 per cent in the next five years. In his speech, President Barelli asked all 52 Member Federations to join the European Blue Card Programme as well as to introduce the LEN Standards in swimming education. “This is to be connected with a campaign on the values of swimming, promotion of the Culture of Water which should lead to have more people in Europe swimming more effectively, more regularly and more safely” he said. LEN senior consultant Kelvin Juba underlined swimming’s impact on the health of a population which might also improve economic-related statistics as well.

In his speech, Antonio Tajani gave a brief overlook on sport’s role in Europe’s history and in the current days of the European Union. He described it as one of the most important activities which is part of our culture and equal with peace – as well as an area producing 3% of the EU’s annual GDP and offering 5.5 million jobs. “Thanks to LEN’s efforts, swimming enjoys a growing popularity in Europe” the President said. “However, we all know that swimming doesn’t only have positive impact on health but also a live-saving skill. That’s why I fully support LEN’s programme ‘Learn-to-swim, Prevent Drowning and I kindly invite you to Brussels to present this initiative to the top decision-makers of the European Union.”

The LEN Congress was held in the new treasure of aquatic sports, the Duna Arena. After the welcome speeches of Hungary’s Minister for Sports and Olympic silver medallist swimmer Tunde Szabo and the Deputy Mayor of Budapest Alexandra Szalay-Bobrovniczky, LEN President Paolo Barelli took the floor to present his report on 2017.

He recalled that European athletes had achieved tremendous success last year while claiming 105 medals at the World Championships (also held in Budapest) and amassing 353 appearances in the respective finals in the six disciplines, besting the other continents.

“This is your success, your athletes’, coaches’ and officials’ success” Mr Barelli praised the efforts of the National Federations. “We are to support you as much as we can, we offered an average one million euros per year in travel assistance and prize money.” He added that in the last year LEN had strongly encouraged FINA to devote significantly more resources to its Members and the Continental Organisations. “Encouragingly, our voice has been heard. A lot more can be done but the launch the Olympic Solidarity Programme is a welcomed change and a step in the right direction from FINA” the LEN President said.

He hailed the hosts of recent LEN Events which all met the highest standards – he gave a commemorative plaque to the former President of the Danish Swimming Federation Kjeld Egebo Larsen for delivering a world-class meet in Copenhagen, the 2017 European Short-Course Swimming Championships. He shared some thoughts on the upcoming events, including the European Championships in Glasgow this summer. “This first-ever multi-sport event is organised in order to gain even more TV exposure and media attention since there is a huge battle in this market and we do think that together with athletics, gymnastics, cycling, rowing, triathlon and golf we can be much more attractive” the LEN President said.

Among the goals set for European Aquatics and LEN, Paolo Barelli mentioned the even stronger cooperation “with the host cities and organising committees of our Championships in order to create sports events of the highest possible level and to improve technologies including data handling, TV graphics, TV coverage, live streaming and promotion through social networks.”

The president thanked the exceptional work of the LEN Member Federations, the dedication of all LEN Coaches and Extraordinary Athletes, the passion of the LEN Technical Committees and Commissions, applauded the vision of the LEN Leadership, the support of the LEN Sponsors and Suppliers and the commitment of the LEN Office.

LEN Treasurer Tamas Gyarfas echoed the President’s words while presenting the annual financial report which highlighted a 30 per cent rise in the support offered for NFs and the prize money for athletes, thanks to the sound financial results obtained.

The Congress filled two vacancies in the LEN Bureau by electing Alexei Vlasenko (RUS) and Marius Hendrik Gerrit van Zeijts (NED) as new members. The delegates also approved a series of changes in the LEN Constitution and Rules.

Presentations by the respective organisers of the upcoming LEN Events, the European Water Polo Championships in Barcelona and the European Championships in Glasgow as well as the short-course Europeans in Glasgow in 2019 and insights from LEN Partners Malmsten and Myrtha Pools concluded the session.

Press release from LEN, photos courtesy of Deepbluemedia/Giorgio Scala

Read also EP President Tajani’s speech at the LEN Congress here on len.eu:

Ladies and Gentlemen, President Barelli, Dear LEN Members,

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, Dear 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.

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About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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