From August 18 to 21, the "Young Leaders Forum" (YLF) of the European Athletics (EA) Association took place at the TUM Campus in the Olympic Park (CiO). The event has been bringing together promising young people from all over Europe every two years since 2006 as part of the European Athletics Championships. The aim is to develop and network personally, improve their own leadership skills and work together to make the sport fit for the future. Many of the former participants are now in leading positions in athletics federations, but also in politics or business. A special feature of this year's eighth edition was that, in the context of the European Championships (EC) Munich 2022, the athletics federation opened the forum for the first time to participants from other sports and invited six representatives from each of the eight other sports of EC Munich 2022.
This year's program, entitled "Young Leaders Forum meets Allianz" (YLF), lasted four days and included presentations by representatives from the worlds of sport, politics and business, networking events and workshops, primarily under the theme of sustainability. Dobromir Karamarinov, President of European Athletics, emphasized in his opening speech that future "leaders need to be bold, enthusiastic and experienced." The YLF, he said, is the perfect opportunity to gain that experience and build a network. Lord Sebastian Coe, president of the World Athletics Association (IAAF), spoke primarily about the evolution of the International Association of Athletics Federations since its restructuring and reforms. Due to a doping affair involving the Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF), the federation's board resigned completely in 2016. As a result, the new board around Coe founded the Athletics Integrity Union to create more transparency and regain the trust of members. The two most important questions are how the IAAF can make decisions transparently and who holds this decision-making power. In order to clarify these questions and to ensure the growth, equality and sustainability of the athletics federation in the future, the participants and future "leaders" of the YLF in particular were decisive.
Content included event management of the future, sustainability in sports, and how leaders should emerge and act. "Leadership" is innovation, therefore one wants to invest in the leaders, managers, coordinators, coaches and referees of the future, because they set the standard for the sport and the competitions. Diversity, openness and personal responsibility are the main objectives. The participants should be given the ability to network, shape the sport, adapt structures and get involved. To this end, the young adults analyzed, for example, their countries of origin and their national associations with their structures and regulations in groups and later presented their results to the entire panel. Input was provided in numerous speeches by representatives of individual associations and other speakers from business and politics. The partners and sponsors of the forum were an important part of the event. In the context of EC Munich 2022, these were Allianz SE, BMW Group AG and Würth Modyf GmbH, which provided insights into large business groups and interesting speakers.
Marion Schöne, Managing Director of Olympiapark GmbH, also spoke to the more than 100 participants of the forum at the opening ceremony in the "Doppelkegel" event hall of BMW Welt. She said that it was particularly important to her that the forum was opened to all sports at EC Munich 2022 in order to promote exchange between the countries, but also between the sports. Young people, she said, are "the future of sport and it's important for young people to network and work together to drive change." Above all, he said, "networking" with participants and speakers allows contacts with many people already working in sports management, from whom one can learn a lot for one's own career and facilitate an entry into the industry. "It is precisely out of this diversity that we exchange and network across generations, genders, cultures and sports that brings us forward and that is how we can change the world," Schöne explained.
Around 80 participants from athletics took part in the forum, consisting of one representative from each member association of European Athletics. The selection process was in the hands of the respective federations. The only restriction was that participants had to be between 20 and 30 years old.
In addition, this year for the first time young talents from the eight other sports of the EC Munich 2022 were allowed to participate in the forum. In addition to the six representatives from the national associations (three male and three female), an additional delegate from the European umbrella organization was also invited. The aim was to show them the structures and advantages of such a "Leader Forum", so that they can collect these ideas for their own associations.
The participants were very positive about the days: "I hope to learn more about other countries, for example how things work there," said Kerrtu Jänes from the Estonian Athletics Federation. Corinna Post, part of the senior team, responsible for the organization, wished: "I'm a member of the youth committee of the German Athletics Association and my topic is sustainability, so from there I hope I can take something with me." The TUM Campus in the Olympic Park, which served as the Forum's working environment, also met with great enthusiasm. The participants were particularly impressed by the modern ambience and the technical possibilities of the CiO.
Asked about their experiences at the Forum so far, the participants were very satisfied. Marcel Jüngling, vice world champion in artistic cycling, was nominated by the Bund Deutscher Radfahrer e. V. (BDR) as one of the participants of the new eight sports. Already after the opening ceremony he found: "My first general impression is that very many nice people were there. I have already had many interesting conversations." Vasiliana Puhaleva, a participant from the Bulgarian Athletics Federation, also said, "It's a lot of fun, you get to meet a lot of people from all over Europe, and we get a lot of talks from high-level people, for example the World President of Athletics, which is incredible."
The "Young Leaders Forum" at EC Munich 2022 thus seemed to have been a great success. Since the European Athletics Association has already announced that it no longer wants to be part of the European Championships at the next European Championships in 2026, however, it will have been the last time for the time being that the "Young Leaders Forum" has opened its doors to other sports. Maybe participants and officials of other sports and their federations see the potential of such an event and could be convinced to organize their own "Young Leaders Forum" to pave the way for the youth into the future.
Text & Photos: Moritz Noeres & Julian Brandt