Spyros Capralos

The lead up to the 16th edition of the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in Slovakia comes at a challenging time for our continent. 

However, in times of adversity there is always an opportunity for positivity. That is why our aim with the Banská Bystrica EYOF 2022 is to showcase the unity of Europe through the sporting excellence of our young stars.

The most powerful messages in sport are always those communicated by athletes. The skill they display on the field of play, the respect they show at all times, and the friendships they build in competition, should be a lesson and an inspiration to us all.

Instilling these values at a young age is critical to ensuring athletes become the positive role models we all know they can be. EYOFs are a proven platform for achieving this goal. Both through exposure to an international multisport event for the first time, where bonds like no other are formed, and through engagement in the European Young Olympic Ambassador Programme, where our young stars are taught how to promote and strengthen the values and ideals embodied in the Olympic Charter.

Each time we host this magical event, the flame of peace is lit as a beacon of hope and optimism for people all over Europe. This time round, this message of peace and unity has taken on even greater importance. The war in Ukraine remains at the forefront of all our minds and we through sport, we continue to strive to set an example for society. 

Our actions are ultimately what will define us, and I am proud of the way the European Olympic family has stood firmly in solidarity with Ukraine in the build up to the EYOFs.

As was the case for the Winter EYOF Vuokatti 2022, the Ukrainian delegation will have the full support of the European Olympic family. I am eternally grateful to the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Slovakia, and many other NOCs, who are going above and beyond to ensure Ukraine’s young athletes can thrive on the European stage.

Including the delegation from Ukraine, over 3,000 athletes aged 14-18 from 48 NOCs will travel to Banská Bystrica from July 24 to 30 2022, competing in 11 sports. Without doubt we will witness future Olympic and world champions in action, whilst creating a legacy of unity through sport across Europe.

The Flame for the European Youth Olympic Festival has begun its journey around Slovakia in the build-up to the event ©EYOF 2022
The Flame for the European Youth Olympic Festival has begun its journey around Slovakia in the build-up to the event ©EYOF 2022

However, the EYOF is not just about the athletes competing in Banská Bystrica. The festival is an opportunity to educate and motivate young people across Europe to adopt healthier lifestyles. The world faces a crisis of inactivity and obesity and the only way to overcome this is through making sport accessible to everyone.

Driven by Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the principles outlined in the European Sport Model, the European Olympic Committees is working tirelessly to promote that access to sport is a basic human right, not a luxury reserved for the elite. 

I had the pleasure of speaking at the European Union Sport Forum this week on this very topic, where leaders across sport discussed how to ensure European sport is fair, inclusive and fit for a sustainable future.

Our partners for the delivery of the year’s EYOF - the NOC of Slovakia, the Local Organising Committee, and the event’s ambassadors like IOC member and Slovakian Olympic bronze medallist Danka Bartekova - are doing a fantastic job to enable this year’s EYOF to contribute to these goals. 

The event will engage young people throughout Slovakia and demonstrate how sporting events can create a sustainable legacy for societies, both environmentally and through raising participation in sport.

With little over a month to go, there is still work to be done. And we have learnt from the challenges of the past few years to expect the unexpected. That being said, in times of difficulty, sport is an essential ingredient for a well-functioning society, with athletes and sports organisations able to act as role models, uniting people and bringing joy and hope to us all.

As we enter the final stages of preparation, we will be guided by the EYOF mission of inspiring young people throughout Europe. I have no doubt that come the time of the Closing Ceremony on July 30, we will have achieved this mission.