As part of the side events leading up to EYOF2023 FVG – Olympic Festival of European Youth, on Wednesday 7 December, the Comelli Auditorium of the Palazzo della Regione in via Sabbadini, Udine, hosted the Educational Convention “THE OLYMPIC VALUES IN CONVENEXT“. The event, aimed at students of Sports High Schools and those in the first three years of secondary schools in Friuli Venezia Giulia, was promoted by the EYOF2023 Organising Committee in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Merit and the Regional Department of Education. The meeting was attended by eighteen classes for a total of 360 students, mainly from the State high schools for sports in Tarvisio, Gemona, Maniago, Monfalcone and Trieste. A moment of reflection on the ethics and values of sport in the Olympic Charter, but also an opportunity to mention the champions of Friuli Venezia Giulia, a land of great sporting events, the ethical and moral values of sport, sports doping, nutrition and artificial intelligence applied to sport.
The conference, opened by a video message of greetings from the President of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region, Massimiliano Fedriga, was attended by Prof. Livio Consonni representing the Regional School Office, who emphasised the importance of the combination of school and sport. The former as a place of exchange, the latter as an environment of further sociality and fun. Demonstrating the strong link between these 2 worlds, Consonni then recalled that Tarvisio will host the Winter Student Championships in 2023.
The vice-president of the Regional Council of Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Stefano Mazzolini dwelt on the importance of the Licei Sportivi and the relationship between teachers and students/athletes. The young person who decides to take up a sport and practice it as a competitor must be put in the best conditions to do so. There is so much sacrifice in training, in undertaking long journeys, and in finding the necessary time for study. Smart management of the education/sport binomial is the basis for the future positive growth of the athlete who learns and acquires those healthy values that sport supports.
We wanted this meeting, said EYOF2023 President Maurizio Dunnhofer, because we are strongly convinced that, in addition to representing a job opportunity, sport is a great school of life, because, even in its individual form, it is always a team game in which everyone is called upon to respect the same rules, each other. The purpose of this event is to remind all students at sports high schools also of the strong pedagogical value because an athlete is a true sportsman when he practises sport for passion by following the advice of those with experience, accepting the decisions of the jury and the referee without objection, winning without presumption and accepting defeat without bitterness, preferring to lose rather than win by unfair means.
The General Director of the EYOF2023, Giorgio Kaidisch, explained to the young people and guests of the meeting the characteristics of this 16th winter edition of the European Youth Olympic Festival, organised not in a single location but in various venues across the Region. Friuli Venezia Giulia has been a promoter of this initiative from the very beginning, supporting it together with the Italian Government, through the Department of Sport, and in close cooperation with the EOC (the European Olympic Committees) and CONI. It will be an event, concluded Kaidisch, with a focus on sustainability with the aim of leaving a legacy to the region and enriching the experience of all the young volunteers who have decided to be part of our team.
Ernesto Zanetti, from the Sport Area of EYOF2023, recalled the Region’s tradition in organising and hosting major sporting events, such as the 2003 Winter Universiade in Tarvisio, the 2005 Summer EYOF and the 2011 European Masters Games in Lignano, the stages of the Giro d’Italia and the Barcolana, the world’s most attended regatta that takes place every year in the Gulf of Trieste.
Olympic cross-country skiing champion Silvio Fauner addressed the students, pointing out that Friuli Venezia Giulia is a land of champions. It has been so in the past and still is today. “It was 1994 when we won Olympic gold in Lillehammer in Norway, but my story had started much earlier. I had a dream, that of participating in an Olympic game. I would like to tell you this anecdote, because it is part of my growth and my career. When I was 12 years old, I used to ski and train with my friends and, on the slopes, we always found a great athlete, Maurilio De Zolt. Maurilio was older than us and was training to compete in big competitions and we would just fantasise about how great it must be to ski around the world and do what you love. And we used to tell ourselves: if we put our minds to it and we have the qualities, we can do it. Fifteen years have passed since then and I have found myself with that great athlete competing, racing and winning an Olympic medal. This is because in sport, as in life, if there is commitment, sacrifice and determination first, you get there. I can only encourage the professors to continue supporting these kids who want to do sport. Because sport is education, culture and prevention”.
Luca Grion, professor of moral philosophy at the University of Udine, spoke on the subject of the ethical values of sport. Sport is a game, but not all games are sport. Sport is a school of life, it is true, but it depends on the quality of the teachers. Virtue for the ancients was excellence, giving the best. And when the ancients spoke of a happy life, they compared it to the performance of an athlete who is able to express himself at his best. So, what is the lesson of sport? First and foremost, knowing how to find the right way to balance many needs. In sport, winning counts, but not only that: putting yourself on the line counts. In life, we don’t always get a second chance, in sport every Sunday we can try again and start again. We are used to the idea that to be free means to be untied, to have no rules, instead sport teaches us the opposite: we can do what we love if we do not first make a pact with our fellow players and respect the rules. It means that freedom is not an alternative to rules. Being free means learning to bond well.
Another topic discussed at the conference was doping in sport. Prof. Aldo Passelli, Specialist in Sports Medicine and physician of the Udinese Calcio football team, described the topic as ‘scandalous’. Unfortunately, we talk about this issue only when there’s a major scandal. But what are the weapons we have to fight doping? Prevention and awareness. We must always bear in mind that the side effects of doping do not occur immediately, but after many years. It is not an immediate bogeyman. To combat doping, it is necessary to experience sport as play, movement and competitiveness. Commitment is our winning weapon and this must be a message for everyone, not only for competitive athletes but also for amateurs for whom controls do not exist. The so-called hidden doping.
Dr. Federica Fiori, Research Associate at the Medical Area Department of the University of Udine, addressed the topic of healthy eating, focusing on the importance of following a healthy lifestyle, especially within the sphere of nutrition. A way of life that is possible in Friuli Venezia Giulia, a region that is sustainable and attentive to supporting local economies. Combining health and sustainability is absolutely possible, Fiori emphasised.
Prof. Christian Micheloni and Dr. Matteo Dunnhofer from the Department of Mathematical, Informatics and Multimedia Sciences at the University of Udine illustrated the possible applications of artificial intelligence applied to sport. A very specific area of artificial intelligence is computer vision (CV), i.e. building a three-dimensional model of the environment from two-dimensional images. With machines, Micheloni explained, “we try to go beyond the visual capabilities of human beings: in some areas this is possible, in others it is more complex. One of our projects involves sport, or rather, skiing”.
Matteo Dunnhofer recalled that the goal in alpine skiing is to reach the valley in the shortest possible time. But time alone is not enough to optimise a performance; to do so, it is necessary to measure several parameters, such as speed and trajectory. To do this, Dunnhofer explained, there are some devices nowadays, but they have two limitations: being worn, thus requiring inconvenient calibration steps, and being based on GPS technology that does not allow extremely precise geolocation. Our goal is to create an infrastructure to measure these parameters precisely without the athletes noticing. These will be studies that will develop over time, but the collaboration with Eyof2023 is a first step towards this goal.