Thursday, 10 November 2011

European Women and Sport Conference 2011

Welcoming delegates with plenty of grandeur and copious amounts of coffee and cake, this year’s European Women and Sport (EWS) conference was held at the 5* Grange City Hotel in London. EWS constitutes a network of individuals and organisations from 44 countries committed to achieving gender equality in sport; increasing the involvement of women at all levels and in all functions and roles.
175 delegates and guest speakers attended from all over Europe, dedicated, determined and keen to share ideas and initiatives to help achieve the EWS key objectives. As my first international conference experience, it was a pleasure to be involved with an event of such status, and a privilege to represent WSFF.
The opening reception took place at the handball arena on the Olympic Park and we were lucky enough to drive around the site on a gorgeous clear evening. With less than one year to go now you can really grasp what the park will look like when it’s complete; its flowing infrastructure is finally becoming realised.
The arena certainly makes an impact with its shell of copper cladding contrasting against a vibrant, colourful interior. Paul Deighton, LOCOG Chief Executive, was terribly excited to divulge that the outside had been coated with horse urine to preserve its deep colour and prevent rusting. Not many knew how to react to that; I applauded.
More excitingly, the exclusive London 2012 gender pin badge was unveiled for the first time. It is the fourth to have been issued in celebration of six strands of diversity, engaging all communities to support the Games next year and beyond.
The conference itself was made up of workshops, presentations and interactive question and answer sessions. Being the official photographer for the event, I tried to sneak into as many as possible whilst lugging around my paparazzi kit. I managed to catch a few minutes of the ‘More Women = More Medals’ session, where Helen Glover, athlete for British Rowing, spoke about her extreme career progression since 2008. Having never even stepped into a boat before, Helen was selected to become a potential professional athlete through UK Sport’s ‘Sporting Giants’ where she fit the specification: young, tall, with a sporty background. I’m currently Googling ‘How to become taller…’
'The commercial value of women's sport' workshop was led by Sue Tibballs, CEO here at WSFF, and Kelly Simmons, Head of National Game at The FA. The session focused on presenting our research looking at the state of sponsorship for women’s sport (hot off the press and will be released soon).
The panel discussions and plenary sessions on both days were incredibly impressive, pulling together a real mix of influential and well-respected individuals. It was truly inspiring to learn about the real initiatives and developments being made all over Europe to get the status of women in sport to where it needs to be.
Concluding the conference, the general theme was that there’s still a lot to be done, but progress is certainly being made. William Gaillard, Advisor to the President at UEFA, stated that women’s football, in particular, has come a long way; ‘like going from the Stone Age to the iPad in the space of a decade.’ By being creative and persistent, it is imperative that this trend is encouraged across all sports because as we know…
"Gender equality in sport is not just good for women, but good for sport." Amanda Bennett, Chair, EWS.

[Written during my internship at the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation]


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