An interview with Spyros Karavoulis, President of the Organizing Committee of the 3rd World Company Sport Games
by Vicky Katehaki, Press & Media at Athens Development and Destination Management Agency
In June 2020, Athens will play a key role in one of the most exciting new traditions in global sport when the Greek capital hosts the 2020 World Company Sport Games (17-20 June). Competitive sport teams formed by the employees of companies and organizations across the world will participate in tournaments and sporting events in Athens, including more than 5,000 athletes, supporters, and guests.
Historic venues like the Panathenaic Stadium and the National Gymnastics Club will host special events during the Games, creating experiences that are sure to be unforgettable. Athletes will have the opportunity to discover the sporting culture of Athens while demonstrating the positive impact of participation in company sport.
Spyros Karavoulis, President of the Organizing Committee of the 3rd World Company Sport Games, gives us the details of this exciting celebration that will help project the cultural heritage of Athens throughout the world. Mr. Karavoulis highlights that the support provided by the City of Athens, along with other participants, guarantee the success of this significant event.
- It is the first time that Athens will host the World Company Sport Games. Why is this event significant for the city?
Spyros Karavoulis: It is the first time that the World Company Sport Games will be held in an Olympic city. It is a multi-sport event considered the third most important event hosted in Athens following the Olympic Games of 2004 and the World Special Olympics of 2011. The World Company Sport Games include 28 different sports, among them football, basketball, volleyball and beach-volley, golf, swimming, archery, darts, table tennis, and more.
The athletes will parade inside the historic venue of the Panathenaic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony, and they will compete in the world-class facilities at the Olympic Athletic Centre of Athens. We have also specially selected athletic facilities around Athens to host events and competitions, including the Galatsi Olympic Hall, the Peace and Friendship Stadium, the Hellenic American Educational Foundation, the National Shooting Range in Vyronas, as well as the spectacular golf courses at Costa Navarino in the Peloponnese. The National Athletic Club of Athens will be the registration centre and will also host the Closing Ceremony of the Games. And we will have a parallel programme in the heart of Athens at the Zappeion Megaron that will create a festive atmosphere throughout the Games.
-How do you feel being the key-person of such a significant event?
Spyros Karavoulis: I am very proud. But at the same time, I feel the burden of the responsibility. We should not forget that this event is directly attached to the image of our city abroad since we expect participants from approximately 50 different countries. For this demanding event, we co-ordinate specialized team of competent and qualified executives.
I am very happy that the City of Athens, Attica Region, Ministry of Tourism, General Secretariat of the Hellenic Republic, Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, sponsors and many other organizations support the organization and put the event under their auspices. The complete support of the State is a prerequisite for the success of significant events.
-What are your predictions for the future of Company Sport in Greece?
Spyros Karavoulis: The Hellenic Organization for Company Sport and Health is assigned to organize the Games and is the representative member of the European and the World Federations of Company Sport in Greece. It actually constitutes an international network of non-profit organizations promoting health and wellness in the workplace.
During the eight years of our operation, the organization has followed an impressive trend. Every October we organize the annual National Company Sport Games with at least 1,000 athletes competing and more than 30 companies and organizations supporting the events. We organize individual races in Thessaloniki in collaboration with companies based in Northern Greece as well as football and beach volleyball leagues. Apart from our activities, National Company Sport continues to grow, with basketball leagues, tournaments, and competitions held across the country that involve hundreds of athletes. We strongly believe that organizing this effort, with the support of government officials, can highlight the benefits and importance of company sport activities as part of corporate social responsibility. Greece is developing into one of the leading countries in this field as a result of our culture of sport.
- In what ways do you think that this event contributes to the development of Sport Tourism in Greece? What is the future for this sector?
Spyros Karavoulis: Examples from abroad have shown that Company Sport has enormous potential to do good by addressing employees in all professions and skill levels. This means hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. Our intention is to motivate them to enhance their athletic activity, helping to promote health and wellness in the workplace. The gains are significant for employees who feel better and are able to maintain their physical, mental, and emotional balance. At the same time, companies that support these efforts will find that their employees are more satisfied, more productive, and perform better in teamwork.
The occasion of the 2020 World Company Sport Games advances a legacy in organizing company sport events. For the future, we are building the basis for a sustainable culture of company sport that attracts company groups from abroad for smaller events and individual sports. That can bring significant benefits for sport tourism and our tourism product in general. We have a great opportunity to expand our efforts at a national and international level because Greece is an attractive destination for visitors from abroad.
- In what ways can the city benefit from the World Company Sport Games?
Spyros Karavoulis: This organization has many unique aspects. It is the first international large-scale event about Company Sport and Health that is taking place in our country. We expect more than 5,000 athletes, and I believe that this number could reach to 7,000 or even 8,000 athletes if we take into consideration the latest data for the European Games held in Salzburg where more than 7,000 athletes participated.
But we should certainly emphasize that this is a self-financed sport-tourism event. The majority of participants are business executives who will arrive in Athens not only to take part in the competition and festivities, but also to relax and enjoy the best that our city has to offer. This will have a significant benefit for our economy. They will be staying in hotels, visiting restaurants, and going shopping. To put it briefly, they will spend their money in Athens.
- Could you summarize the major advantages that arise from this event?
Spyros Karavoulis: It is not the first time that Athens will be hosting a significant sporting event. We have had this experience and with great success. The city itself has a positive impact on organizing such significant events. One major advantage is the climate, but we also have world-class facilities and infrastructure for sport and culture. The Panathenaic Stadium is a universal symbol of sport and it will be a moment of great pride for the participants to parade into the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the World Games. Athens offers a vast range of choices in accommodation, food, entertainment, shopping, and day excursions. It is a big city that people from all over the world dream to visit.
- Would you consider that Athens is in the position to attract significant events and conferences? Should we expect a rise in the development of congress tourism, following the organizing of the 3rd World Company Sport Games in the Greek capital?
Spyros Karavoulis: We should not forget that thousands of visitors who arrive in Athens on the occasion of the World Company Sport Games – in the majority, company executives – will become the city's ambassadors in their countries. The Greek capital has great potential as it already offers all the infrastructure, having organized the Olympics in the past. By using this infrastructure and creating new events and products, we can certainly increase sport tourism throughout the year.
To show you what I mean, the Athens Classic Marathon used to be a small event attended by a few hundred of people. The incredible work of the Hellenic Athletics Federation turned this event into a global brand with more than 20,000 entries every year and a remarkable number of add-on benefits for the city. By creating relevant events for other sports throughout the year, we can achieve a continuous flow of sport tourism, taking advantage of the Olympic and cultural heritage and thus creating benefits for our tourism industry. Furthermore, in the context of Company Games, we organize an international conference in collaboration with Erasmus, the company which has taken over our travel services. We address business and corporate executives, who organize or participate in conferences around the globe. This way, we highlight the city's opportunities in the hospitality of congress tourism and promote it to the thousands of participants who arrive in Athens. And I should of course mention the contribution of This is Athens-Convention and Visitors Bureau which is extremely important for us.
-What message are you sending to your guests, who are planning to travel to Athens in June 2020?
Spyros Karavoulis: We welcome our guests to a city with a complete infrastructure, ready to offer a unique experience that only Greece and Athens can provide. We do this in cooperation with many stakeholders, ministries, and organizations that actively support our efforts. Our aim is to offer all athletes who visit Athens the pleasure to enjoy their stay and hope they will become ambassadors of our culture and tourism when they return to their home countries.
For more information, please visit the official website: https://www.athens2020.org/
Erasmus S.A. is the official PCO for the event.