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Sports, youth, major events

  • Rome
  • 20 October 2023

        September 20, 2023 was a historic moment for Italian sports: a bill was passed, amending article 33 of the Constitution, formally recognizing the educational, social and psycho-physical value of all forms of sport.

        The appeal of sports goes well beyond the narrow dimensions of fitness and competition, frequently offering substantial opportunities for financial and professional gain. Major sporting events such as the Ryder Cup recently held in Rome, the European athletics championship to take place in Rome in June 2024 and the Milan/Cortina Olympics and Paralympics set for 2026 all represent a resounding national success; along with other minor events, they are sure to generate significant revenue. Indeed, sports in general contribute approximately 1.4% of GDP – roughly 25 billion euro per year. Nevertheless, despite the visibility afforded by major sporting events, the momentum generated by the Italian sports movement has still not managed to close the North/South gap; nor –most importantly – has it succeeded in improving Italy’s high ranking among OECD on a scale of sedentariness.  

        The recent constitutional amendment therefore offers a perfect opportunity to set new goals and priorities. In addition to the infrastructure Italy needs to meet such goals, the country also needs improvement in the mental approach to physical activity. Understanding needs to spread about the role sports play as a sort of social immune defense system. It has been scientifically proven that practicing sports increases well-being and health by improving quality of life. In fact, the tragic pandemic experience showed quite clearly how sport can alleviate moments of difficulty – indeed, participating in sports offered one of the few settings where people enjoyed some individual freedom during the periods of lockdown. At the same time, the act of recuperating a sports facility can be symbolic and play a positive role in reviving community morale and values, as in the recent case of the town of Caivano, where legality and social purpose intervened successfully.

        The school system and sporting associations are the main channels for the development and promotion of sports in Italy. Both deserve government support in order to pursue their social and formative aims. Excellent examples are the support ensured by the Ministry of Sport and Youth, CONI, CIP, the facilities of the government’s Sport and Health department and, above all, by the Istituto per il Credito Sportivo. This latter example is the only case of a publicly held bank whose purpose is to provide sports and culture incentives.

        Sport is also and above all a practice that fosters discipline and individual growth; without a doubt, it is a solid investment in the nation’s human capital. The pivotal leadership role played by coaches, managers and everyone else who interacts in a meaningful way with athletes in achieving that objective is undeniable. Such figures should be guides: present, duly prepared, empathic and capable of motivating. Respect, reliability and fairness, along with an emphasis on aspects such as teamwork and technical and physical abilities, are the foundation that underpins a project built on shared values. This project goes beyond individual competition to project sport into an all-encompassing educational dimension. Indeed, defeat and failure are as vital as victory to the continuing process of individual psycho-physical edification.

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