You are in:

Speech by President of the Government at Athletes' Information Office

Headquarters of the Spanish Olympic Committee, Madrid, Monday 8 April 2019

Good day, President of the Spanish Olympic Committee, State Secretary for Sport, President of the Catholic University of Murcia, José Luis, Eli Pinedo, Diego García. Rafael Lozano, Montserrat, Pilar,

Dear athletes, men and women,

We live in a time in which we constantly face dilemmas, and find ourselves at a crossroads. We also experience this daily. Some of these dilemmas are real; they are true, while many others are not.

For example, when talking about the future of the planet, some say that we cannot be both sustainable and efficient, whereas the truth is quite the opposite. Today, the only way to be efficient is to be sustainable.

Some of these dilemmas affect sport; they affect you, our athletes.

In your field, I am sure that you have often heard that you cannot be an elite athlete while training in something else at the same time or undertaking other activities to prepare for the future.

In essence, you are told that elite sport is all or nothing; that you can only expect to win medals for a few years in the best case scenario. And after that suffer from difficulties in adapting to the job market, or quite simply, have difficulties returning to a life far removed from elite sport.

Sport, as has been rightly said here by Alejandro, is a way of life, a way of being in this world; a community of values, of principles; a way of thinking and acting. And you never forget this. It is a feeling that will always accompany you beyond just sport.

Athletes feel that they are athletes their whole lives. And they will always be, albeit not professionally. And it is there, in this change that the Athletes' Information Office of the Spanish Olympic Committee, as well as the Sportspeople's Support Programme of the National Sports Council, that the State secretary mentioned earlier, must play a key role.

This is based on a conviction that all of us here share, which is that it is not fair that you win us medals, bring us joy, prestige and pride as a country, as a nation, in each event in which you compete, and that we then forget about you when you leave sport or retire.

Your sacrifice, your determination, your dedication and your passion benefit us and have brought us all excitement. And Spain must find a way to acknowledge this and act in consequence.

The question is, in short, for the applause and the cheers that you deservedly receive in the Olympic village to also be reflected in your daily lives, in your personal projects and in your professional projects.

That is why initiatives like the one being presented today, the one being advocated, and rightly so, by the way, by the Athletes' Information Office, has aspects which, in my opinion, are very important, and I would like to share these with you.

On the one hand, because this Office helps athletes combine training with studies and work, as we have seen. And, on the other hand, to facilitate your incorporation in the job market once your sporting careers are over.

It is necessary to rebel against these false dilemmas I mentioned at the start of my speech. You don't need to choose between competing and studying. You shouldn't have to choose between competing and working; you should be able to do both things.

Spanish athletes deserve this; you deserve this. You have earned this. And your work and your role in society go beyond your specific achievements, which are many in the case of Spain, as we have seen in these video clips. Sport and our sportspeople also contribute, in my opinion, two basic aspects to the good health of our societies.

Firstly, as I also mentioned when in La Nucía, you are our finest ambassadors. You convey a positive image of our country, of Spain, both abroad and in our own country. You create a community, which is important, which is fundamental. And a sense of belonging that brings us all closer together and consequently forges cohesion. And furthermore, you are always a source for transmitting values, principles and skills for life.

The best example can be found in the sports competition par excellence, that is, the Olympic Games, and also the Paralympics. When we talk about Olympic values, it is for a good reason.

Hence, when we promote sport, when we concern ourselves with the well-being and future of our athletes, we are also looking after our country and forging the cohesion of our societies. We all benefit from this cooperation and together we must tackle the challenges of this State policy, because sport must be a State policy in our country: athletes, organisations, associations, as was rightly mentioned before; governments and other public institutions and obviously civil society that admires you and that you do not stop surprising and giving joy to.

All of these successes come and will continue to come from the hard work of athletes, but also from the contributions we all make so that all this work can be performed in the simplest fashion possible.

Teamwork is one of the great sporting values. Nelson Mandela said that sport has the power to change the world, and he experienced this first-hand. I believe that all those of us here believe the same - that sport can change the world. That major changes can be made to the world. And that the small world we have around us, and that interests us so much, can also be changed thanks to sport.

You change the world by competing in sporting events, because you offer a horizon, an inspiration, an example, a challenge, a goal, to millions of boys and girls throughout the world, who watch you and who you inspire in different neighbourhoods and in different countries without being rich or poor mattering, and they also strive to be like you.

In short, you are a source of hope. You represent the hopes of many boys and girls. You teach them that there is a path in which the main component is one's own strength and hard work. And this horizon of justice, through sport, is, on many occasions, the only thing they have. The inspirational capacity of sport is astounding and exciting.

In a world dominated by fears, anguish and uncertainty, your role is more important than ever. And between us all, we must boost this and offer incentives. This inspirational ability can be seen, for example, in the commitment of so many elite athletes, who use the prestige of your names to get involved in the noble causes of your or our times.

These include the fight against child poverty through one of the frameworks that the Government of Spain created with the 2030 Agenda. In the fight against hunger, in raising money following a natural disaster and in raising awareness against the social scourge of gender-based violence.

You, our athletes, teach us how to win and also, as has been mentioned here, to lose.

How to pick ourselves up when we fall, how to excel when others believe we should conform and resign ourselves to where we are. You teach us a way of understanding life in which competition and respect are inseparable, in which you cannot win at any price but through fair play, without unfair advantages, but on a level playing field and with respect for your adversary.

The world has a great deal to learn from you. It is time for sport to become a priority, for your role to be acknowledged together with your positive influence for Spain and for our citizens as a whole.

In short, it is time for us to all rise to the level of your efforts and that of everything good you do for our country.

All of you who dedicate your lives to elite sport can do great things for Spanish sport. And you undoubtedly do this, but you can also do great things for your country when you cease to be part of the elite in your respective sporting disciplines. These two things are not incompatible, or at least, they shouldn't be.

Between us all, with such initiatives as the Athletes' Information Office and the Sportspeople's Support Programme, I believe that we will make this goal possible to achieve.

Athletes, dear friends, the great event of Tokyo 2020 is on the horizon. There we hope to repeat the successes of Rio 2016, where our athletes shone brightly, particularly, if you will allow me to say it, our women, who won more medals - 9 in total - than our men - 8 in total. And these will be the first Olympic Goals under the influence of what I mentioned to you earlier - the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations. This Agenda contains, as you are aware, 17 sustainable development goals in which sport plays, in my opinion, a fundamental and decisive role.

The 2030 Agenda seeks to make competition more attractive to a young public. And it seeks to balance participation between men and women, whilst helping raise awareness of the global problems that affect the whole of humanity.

As I said to you before, sport transcends achievements in competitions, and I am sure that these will be memorable Olympic Games; I am convinced of that. I am sure you will go there prepared, because you work very, very hard, and because you strive each day to exceed your own limits and show us this in each competition.

Spanish athletes do not miss any chance to remind us of the level they are at. And I must say to you that I am proud of that fact; we are proud of you. And we are also going to work through our public institutions to rise to your level.

We are going to be at the level of your commitment, of your sporting spirit and also of your professional lives; at the level of your example, and your spirit of sacrifice. That is, and will be, the loudest applause that we can give you.

Thank you very much. And thank you, Alejandro, for this initiative.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation