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The sportsman

Elected president of CONI – the Italian Olympic Committee – last year, Giovanni Malagò has enjoyed a successful career in sports ranging from football to rowing. He talks to UniQ about the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Forte Village sports academies and the future of Italian sport

UniQ: Mr President, it’s been a year since you took office. Looking back, how have you found the state of Italian sport and what have you achieved so far?
Giovanni Malagò: Sport has always been one of the most beautiful aspects of our country. I found a system that was working fine when I took office but I was nominated for the role because I thought that it was necessary to tackle certain problems, to foster generational change, to innovate and to make sure that we stay competitive. I’m very pleased with the response that I’ve had so far from everyone involved. The most important tasks to date have included the reform of the education system. Now the goal is to create closer links between schools and sport and to bring competitive activities to younger people.

UniQ: Sport these days is also increasingly seen as a type of philosophy. In 2000 the European commission, as part of the Treaty of Nice, recommended that the EU take account of its social, educational, cultural, ethical and health aspects. Looking back over the last few years, and perhaps looking forward, do you believe that these ideas have been put into practice?
Giovanni Malagò: I strongly believe in sport as an agent for development in every aspect of life. Just increasing the rate of physical inactivity by one percent would allow Italy to save €200 million in health care costs. Sport means respecting your opponent as well as loyalty and fair play. It helps reduce distances and overcome differences. Sport educates people and allows them to develop because it involves discipline and rigour and it also promotes social inclusion.

UniQ: Italy brought home eight medals from Sochi – two silver and six bronze. It might not seem very satisfactory at first but some observers believe that it sows the seeds for future success.
Giovanni Malagò: I would say that the status of a country cannot be measured with its position in the medal table. We improved our results since Vancouver. All the numbers should be read in perspective and this presents an encouraging view of the future. The eight medals that we took home from Sochi were won by a very young team which bodes well for 2018. I don’t deny that it’s disappointing not to have won a gold but we’ll work to achieve 10 to 13 medals in Pyeongchang.

UniQ: Turning to Italy again, the World Cup Women’s Volleyball is the next major event to be held here but there are other big occasions coming up. How ready is the organisation machine? What can we expect?
Giovanni Malagò: Italy should be capable of organising big international events that can bring prestige to the country. I’m sure that the World Cup Women’s Volleyball will be a successful event which will create a good impression of Italy internationally. There are high expectations with Marco Bonitta back as coach as he’s synonymous with ability and competitiveness but, while winning is great, the most important thing is to instil a new mindset and to invest in young people so that they become leaders.

UniQ: The successful sports academies at Forte Village allow this development to take place. Would you agree?
Giovanni Malagò: Every sports enthusiast dreams of playing alongside leading figures in their particular sport. The concept behind the sports academies is excellent because it puts former champions and the best trainers at the service of amateurs. It’s a commendable initiative because it adds value to a holiday and makes it even more exciting.