Safe Sport Journey Symposium concludes with pledge for safe Gymnastics

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Press Release – LAUSANNE (SUI), FIG Office, 3 November 2022

LAUSANNE (SUI), FIG Office, 3 November 2022   Safe Sport Journey Symposium concludes with pledge for safe Gymnastics 
Liverpool (GBR), 3 November 2022 – Leaders, coaches and gymnasts from all over the world met at the ACC Exhibition Centre over the past two days during the 51st FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships to discuss the topic of safeguarding and show that any Gymnastics federation, wherever it may be in the world and whatever its level of development, can easily join the safeguarding journey.    More than 200 participants from over 50 different countries attended the event in person, plus a further 100 who joined online to listen and learn from a line-up of inspiring speakers from across the worlds of sport and safeguarding.  

The symposium, which was jointly hosted by British Gymnastics and FIG with the support of UK Sport and the Local Organising Committee for the World Championships, represented a shared commitment from the organisations to ensuring gymnast welfare is paramount. It built on the work to develop safeguarding principles at the FIG in recent years, which include the establishment of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation in January 2019, a safeguarding working group with 15 athlete representatives from all FIG disciplines, a Safeguarding Commission earlier this year and the 10 Golden Rules of Gymnastics campaign, presented in a playful cartoon and video format to appeal to young athletes, which has featured prominently at the start of every competition day during the World Championships.  

The symposium showed that safeguarding is an infinite journey and often requires cultural transformation for its successful implementation. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” said Li Li Leung, President and CEO of USA Gymnastics, who also stressed the importance of focusing on the athletes and their well-being, rather than medals.   This sentiment was echoed by former gymnast and survivor Andreea Raducan, a member of the FIG Safeguarding Commission, who said “we should tell the young generation more about how important the journey to a World or Olympic medal is, rather than getting the medal itself. You develop important skills along the way, as well as lifetime abilities that you can use after your sports career ends.” 

Alex McLin, Director of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation, provided some tips on how to bring about this cultural change, introducing the notion of “Institutional Courage” and the need for acknowledgement, apology and accountability. “Cherish the whistleblowers,” he said.
The Gymnastics Ethics Foundation aims to foster this approach by implementing internationally recognised standards of best practice. As a trusted and legitimate authority, the Foundation can pursue what is just and uphold the ideals of justice across the global Gymnastics ecosystem.  
In his closing address, Morinari Watanabe, FIG President, presented his policy of inverting the traditional model of governance at an international sports federation and placing the athlete at the top. “We need to bring the elements of enjoyment, friendship and solidarity back into Gymnastics. Urban sports and Paralympic sports are successful precisely because they share these values. Every block in the inverted pyramid, from coaches, judges, national federations and continental unions right down to the President, should work to support the athlete.” 
Sarah Powell, CEO of British Gymnastics, said “We should use every opportunity to address the issue of safeguarding and the World Championships here in Liverpool was the perfect opportunity to do so. Thanks to the help of the organising committee of the World Championships and the leadership of the FIG, we have been able to bring together some of the strongest voices in safeguarding to share their stories. As British Gymnastics, we want to play our part in creating a positive future for gymnastics and take a leading role in driving forward wider sector changes nationally and internationally to ensure safe sport for all. Looking back over the past two days, this event has undoubtedly been an important step towards doing that”.