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01 May 2011

Young Reporters at Sport and Environment Conference in Doha - An Interview with IOC President Jacques Rogge

Representatives of the sport and environment worlds have descended on the Qatari capital Doha for the 9th IOC World Conference on Sport and the Environment. The Conference is co-hosted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and will come to a close with a special plenary session, “Tomorrow’s Leaders Today”. The panel will feature an athlete, an ambassador and three reporters from the first Youth Olympic Games (YOG), held in Singapore last year. With organisers of the Conference keen to hear the thoughts of the people who will be most affected by environmental change, the panel is a highly anticipated part of the three-day Conference.

Two members of the panel, and participants of the Young Reporters Programme at the first YOG, Sonali Prasad (India) and Luke Dufficy (Australia), sat down with IOC President Jacques Rogge to get his thoughts on how young people can help sport lead the way to a greener future.

Luke: Why do you think sport should be leading the way in promoting a greener and more environment-friendly way of life?
Jacques Rogge:Sport has social responsibilities. It is much more than physical activity and competition. It is a great educational tool. It has a duty to educate the people who practise it. Therefore, it is a primary responsibility to use sport to spread awareness about a more healthy and environment-friendly way of living.

Sonali: Young Ambassadors, Reporters and Athletes will be speaking at the closing session of the Conference. How do you think they can effectively contribute to the Conference?
Jacques Rogge: We need to listen to young people because they are the future of mankind. The new generation is very conscious of the damage being done to the environment. When I was your age, no one would speak about climate change or ecological sustainability. Awareness only spread in the 1980s. The Rio Conference was held in 1992, and that opened the eyes of the people of the world. But your generation is the one which is ready to make decisions for a greener future.

Sonali: How important is it for the younger generation to be environmentally aware today?
Jacques Rogge: It is about your future. It is about the future of your children. Unfortunately, you have received a bad legacy from the older generation. We have left you a world with climate change, problems with environmental sustainability. Everyone should address that. It will be unfair if we don’t do anything about that since we are the ones that have left you a bad legacy.

Sonali: What will be your message to the young athletes, ambassadors and volunteers who participated in the Youth Olympics Games last year or will be participating in the future editions?
Jacques Rogge: We will continue to spread environmental education. We are working with experts on that. As you know, the Culture and Educational Programme of the YOG is of paramount importance. These Games are not all about competition. They are about building personalities and giving them the learning that they need for the rest of their life.

Luke: What would you personally like to come out of the Conference?
Jacques Rogge: In my opinion, we will see renewed efforts. I am proud what sport has achieved since 1990. We have had very good “green” Games. We have Agenda 21, which is kind of a blueprint of what we should do in the direction of environmental sustainability and a very good working document. But we have to do more. We need to start as soon as possible. This Conference is about future actions, not about reflections on the past.

Luke: How will this Conference be different from the others? How do we make sure that it’s not all talk, no action?
Jacques Rogge: I think there is a tangible but also an intangible part. The intangible part is about persuading people to change their behaviour. We need to tell the people in the sports arena that more has to be done. If we are able to bring about a sense of urgency amongst the participants, we will already be doing a lot. This scenario is similar to the Rio Conference in 1992. There were not that many practical and tangible ideas that came out of that Conference. But it frightened people; it opened their eyes. The tangible things will be the resolution that will be taken as a result of this Conference. Let us look forward to them and hope that we are able to make an impact.

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