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    The panel session, dedicated to topical issues and sports relations between Russia and Africa, was also attended by Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation Oleg Matytsin, President of the All-Russian Federation of Rhythmic Gymnastics Irina Viner, President of the International Boxing Association Umar Kremlev, Head of the Organizing Committee of the World Friendship Games Alexei Sorokin, as well as representatives of the NOCs of four African states, namely, Namibia, Mali, Eswatini and Togo.

    Stanislav Pozdnyakov spoke about cooperation in the field of elite sport and the transfer of experience in holding the International Forum of Young Olympians, which was attended by delegations from African countries for the very first time in 2023. The President of the ROC noted that the NOCs of African countries not only highly assessed the event, but also requested that a seminar be held for the heads of delegations, where the principles of forming the IFYO program were discussed in detail. In the future, this could help to hold events of a similar format on the African continent. Separately, he noted the role of the Russian-African partnership in the current international situation:

    – Cooperation in sport is especially crucial now, when times are not the easiest for the international Olympic movement and when political forces are trying to separate the NOCs of different countries. Sport is a link that can become an instrument of interaction between states, peoples and a means of achieving the humanitarian ideals of mankind – such as peace, friendship and prosperity. In difficult moments, friends are known not by words, but by deeds. Now we can really see who our real partners are and those who only pretended or continue to pretend. Therefore, we have a very positive attitude towards our joint work and, of course, we want colleagues from other continents to follow the example of our African friends.

    The Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation Oleg Matytsin stressed the importance of the Russian-African partnership in his opening remarks:

    – Throughout the history of Soviet and Russian sports, we have paid great attention to cooperation with African states. Today it is more important than ever. Sport is one of the peaceful tools that will help restore former close ties between states and once again emphasize that Russia is an open country with rich traditions, and we are always glad to see our guests, no matter what continents they represent. Sport is a very powerful platform for promoting peace and cooperation.

    Irina Viner expressed her opinion about the profound untapped potential of athletes from the African continent, including representatives of rhythmic gymnastics. The President of the Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation came up with an initiative for the comprehensive training of gymnasts and individual teams from African countries to improve their level and further participate in multi-sport competitions and tournaments that will be held in Russia in 2024.

    The President of the International Boxing Association Umar Kremlev called for deeper mutual integration with the countries of the African continent and support for intensive dialogue.

    According to the Head of the Organizing Committee of the Friendship Games Alexei Sorokin, the Russia-Africa Forum was the first platform where the draft of future multi-sport competitions, which will be held in September 2024, was presented:

    – World sport exists in new realities, international competitions are burdened with various restrictions and admission criteria. Taking all this into account, sport cannot develop organically. We can feel a demand in the international sports community for new non-politicized competition formats, where there is no place for slogans or discrimination. Such competitions can be organized exclusively for athletes and their fans. Thus, the idea of ​​creating the Friendship Games was born.

    Alexei Sorokin emphasized that the Games are not an alternative to existing competition formats, but will complement them.

    The President of the National Olympic Committee of Namibia Abner Xoagub shared his opinion on the global mission of sport in matters of international humanitarian cooperation:

    – It is important that sport is part of the current agenda. African countries need to participate in such forums, be part of the international process, talk about people and humanitarian programs, which is impossible without projects in the field of sport. Sport can change lives for the better, bring peace and nurture respect. Therefore, the importance of building and strengthening the “bridge” between Russia and Africa cannot be overestimated, as a result of which all participants will receive multifaceted benefits from the partnership. In addition, the benefits of such cooperation will be obvious to the whole world.

    Abner Xoagub also spoke about the friendly relations between the NOCs of Russia and Namibia and thanked the ROC for its support in developing sports disciplines:

    – As the head of the NOC of my country, I can see how clearly the values ​​of the Russian Olympic Committee are spelled out and honoured. And the Olympic value of friendship comes first. Whatever happens in the world, we must support our friends, listen to them, help and look for solutions together on how to get out of difficult situations. International friendship in sport just demonstrates how we can overcome problems and obstacles together. A way out can be found even from a hopeless situation and sport becomes the link in this regard! We signed a Memorandum of Cooperation back in 2016 when Russia was going through difficult times in sport. But we believed in your country and were sure that then all the pretexts were far-fetched. We are sure that now we will be able to cope with everything together. We have a lot of plans and common projects as we look forward to the future.

    The President of NOC Eswatini Adam Mthethwa thanked the ROC for its support in preparing the country’s athletes in Russia and shared his expectations for further cooperation:

    – Today we are signing a Memorandum of Cooperation on a number of programs in the field of sport in order to develop cooperation with the ROC. This partnership has inspired our athletes because Russia is known for its achievements. And we are looking forward to the beginning of a new era of our friendship!

    Mali NOC Technical Director Alioune Badara conveyed Habib Sissoko’s greetings:

    – Long-term experience of cooperation both in the economy and in the field of sport is the basis for the formed climate of trust and strong cooperation. We remain deeply grateful to Russia and I would like to send my warmest words of support to the Russian Olympic Committee and ROC President Stanislav Pozdnyakov in all endeavours.

    Alioune Badara spoke about the transformation that Malian athletes are undergoing while in Russia: after participating in the IFYO, young athletes have gained a deeper understanding of the practical implementation of the values of Olympism. Furthermore, Malian taekwondo athletes, who have received new training and preparation opportunities, are now actively progressing in terms of sports indicators. According to the representative of NOC Mali, cooperation between states should ultimately lead to the fulfillment of the national dream of the whole country – to see their athletes on the Olympic podium.

    The panel session “Sport: A Bridge of Friendship between Russia and Africa” was jointly organized by the Roscongress Foundation, the Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation and the Russian Olympic Committee.


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