Athletes are not “merchandise” and sport cannot be measured solely by economic value


Vatican City, 23 November 2013 (Vatican Information Service) – The language of sport is “universal, and overcomes borders, barriers of language, race, religion and ideology” and is capable of “uniting people, favouring dialogue and openness”, Pope Francis said to delegates from the European Olympic Committees, whom he received in audience this morning in the Sala Clementina, on the occasion of their assembly.

“Indeed, the practice of sport stimulates one to healthily overcome oneself and one's own selfishness and to train oneself in the spirit of sacrifice and ... promotes loyalty in interpersonal relationships, friendship, and respect for rules”, continued the Holy Father, encouraging the institutions and organisations of this sector to offer, especially to the younger generations, “approaches to sport for training in peace, in sharing and the co-existence of peoples”.

“Sporting activity typically unites rather than divides. Even the five interlinked rings, the symbol and flag of the Olympic Games, represent precisely the spirit of brotherhood that should characterise the Olympic events and sports competitions in general”, he observed, adding that “When sport is regarded solely within economic parameters, or in terms of the achievement of victory at any cost, there is the risk of reducing athletes to mere merchandise through whom profit may be obtained. The athletes themselves enter into a mechanism that overwhelms them, causing them to lose sight of the true meaning of their activity. … Sport is harmony, but if the unrestrained pursuit of profit and success prevails, this harmony is lost”.

“As Olympic managers, you are called upon promote the educational aspect of sport”, concluded the Pope. “We are all aware of the great need to train sportsmen and women who are driven by probity, moral rigour and a lively sense of responsibility”.

The words of the Pope

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