The future of sport, and how it can return following the Covid-19 pandemic, was one of the main topics of discussion on day one of the Major Events Summit, organised by Major Events International.

Panellists and speakers from major events including the 2022 Commonwealth Games, 2026 Winter Olympics, Rugby League World Cup and more spoke about the challenges they have faced this year, and how they are planning their return.

Roberto Daneo, who coordinated Milan/Cortina’s successful bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, spoke about his plan to create the most sustainable Winter Games ever staged. This includes maximising the use of existing venues, placing training facilities as close as possible to arenas in order to minimise travel, and putting in place wide-ranging sport, economic, social and environmental legacy projects.

Jon Dutton, Chief Executive of the England 2021 Rugby League World Cup, said that some of his organisation’s plans had been thrown off course by Covid-19. 2021 was originally looking like a fallow year for sport, said Dutton, but now features a heavily populated calendar for sport.

“Sport has helped us conquer many issues in gender equality, and has been a vehicle for championing human rights.”

However, Dutton said he and his team are looking at this as an opportunity to capitalise on a huge demand for the return of sport next year. The Rugby League World Cup 2021 will feature an inclusive volunteer programme intended to drive local engagement, as well as a ‘festival of world cups’ which will aim to promote Rugby League before and during the tournament.

On top of this, he said they have “significant funding” from the UK government for grants to build Rugby League facilities that will promote the sport. Lastly, Dutton said the tournament will have 20,000 tickets available for NHS staff, as a thank you for their hard work and dedicated during the Covid-19 crisis.

 

“Sport is a vehicle for championing equality”

A panel titled ‘Is sport the last gender equality frontier?’ later in the day saw a number of high-profile sportswomen sharing their inspirational stories, and underscoring the importance of sport in building community and equality.

Florette Blackwood, of Jamaica’s Ministry of Gender and Culture, said Jamaica has always had a strong history of women in high-profile sporting positions. “Sport has helped us conquer many issues in gender equality, and has been a vehicle for championing human rights,” she said.

Sana Mir, former captain of Pakistan’s national women’s cricket team, spoke about her childhood experiences of persuading local boys she played with to drag their sisters outside to join them playing cricket. Mir, who has become something of an icon for female sport in Pakistan, said when she was growing up there were very few prominent female sportswomen. “The infrastructure is still not there, but it is improving,” she said.

Dr Deidre Anderson, of New Zealand’s National Rugby league Players Association, said: “Sport has an unparalleled capacity to change culture and move mindsets.”