On the spot
Vice-Mayor of Lausanne,
in charge of Sports and Social Cohesion
Member of the Executive Committee of the
World Union of Olympic Cities
In a few words, can you introduce yourself to the members of the World Union of Olympic Cities?
I look forward to joining the association and sharing our respective experiences in responding to the challenges posed by the organisation of major events. Cities represent the ideal level of proximity for thinking and implementing public policies that will have a concrete impact on the population. I started my mandate as vice-mayor very recently as the head of the Sports and Social Cohesion Department. I have taken over the position previously held by Oscar Tosato. Before that, I ran a neighbourhood centre in Lausanne, a socio-cultural place that organises many activities to improve living together, strengthens social ties, integration, access to culture and sports as well as aiding female citizens and citizens in general in actively participating in the life of their neighbourhood. Equality between women and men is an issue to which I am strongly committed, as is the fight against discrimination. While there is still some way to go to achieve these goals in sport, as in other areas, it remains a powerful means of changing attitudes.
What are the key axes of the work of your mandate?
My department brings together very different themes, ranging from sport to the social service which provides help to Lausanne residents in precarious situations. What unites them and will form the common thread of my action during this legislature, are the strong values of integration and social cohesion, so that each and every one, whatever their age, origin, gender or socio-economic status, finds their place in society. The journey of the Eritrean athlete, Luna Solomon is a prime example of the integrative power of sport. After fleeing her country at war, she arrived in Lausanne. Thanks to a program for refugees led by the three-time Olympic champion Niccolo Campriani, she discovered sport shooting and, in less than two years, qualified and participated in the Tokyo Olympics.
During this mandate, we will develop and implement an active policy around sport for all and for associative sport. It will be broken down into two main axes:
- the promotion of physical activity from a public health perspective (Lausanne has already received the “Global Active City” certification supported by the IOC and the “Commune en santé” designation);
- the promotion of gender equality and the fight against discrimination in sport.
We want to encourage initiatives that come directly from citizens and develop concrete projects that affect all segments of the population: for example, facilitating the practice of family sport, developing a programme adapted for seniors or overweight people, and continue to innovate in competitions organised by the City. At the international level, we are going to strengthen the links between the actors of sport, the international federations and organisations, the IOC and, of course, between the Olympic cities! Finally, we will also cultivate the legacy of the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games, in particular in the areas of sustainable development, youth and equality.
The City of Lausanne is increasingly taking concrete actions in favour of greater equality between women and men in sport (access and practice). Between the equality fund, the Women and Sport survey, and the creation of the Observatory for Women, Sport and Physical Activity, the city is taking action on the issues of gender equality in access to sport and the practice of sport. What will be the first actions implemented in terms of sport in Lausanne?
First of all, I would like to reiterate: sport has no gender! Acting for more equality in this area will be one of the main thrusts of my actions. We recently conducted a study on Lausanne sports policy from a gender perspective. The results reveal a clear disparity between women and men.
Today, 72% of the members of Lausanne sports clubs and associations are men. In effect, nearly 70% of public financial resources and 93% of sports grounds managed by the City are for the benefit of men.
In this context, we are going to rethink our public support system for clubs and associations so that it benefits both women and men. A plan of 19 priority actions and 61 concrete measures has been drawn up. We have an ambitious goal of achieving them by 2026.
Among the first actions carried out, we created a fund intended to support projects in favour of sport for all and projects related to gender equality and the development of women’s sport.
We also launched a communication campaign under the slogan “Leave the stereotypes in the locker room”. Thirteen women, of all ages and from different backgrounds, testify to their practice in disciplines as varied as hockey, tennis, skateboarding or rugby. This campaign aims to develop a community of sporting women, to be a source of inspiration for girls and women who wish to (re)take up physical activity and above all to show them that all sports are accessible to them.
The most recent chapter in the Olympic story has just come to an end. This was an unprecedented Olympics, without an audience, but not lacking in widespread public enthusiasm! How did you “experience” these Olympics? What was resonant for you in these very special circumstances?
I will retain two images of these Games. The first is of the silent bleachers. Paradoxically, this brought us closer to the athletes. There were many close-ups that made us experience their emotions and those of those around them, but also these noises that we had never heard before: that of the pole which wedges, wheels on the floor or the inspiration just before departure. Of course, the fervour of the public was lacking in the stands, but these Olympics brought us into a collective harmony. A welcome parenthesis in the current context.
The other strong image is the podium in the women’s mountain bike event. Because it was entirely Swiss and feminine! (smile). But above all, whether the athletes were women or men, the population came together in the same way and felt the same pride during the medal presentation. This is, I believe, a beautiful expression of the universal values of respect and equality carried by the Olympic Movement.
The Lausanne athletes were very present during these Olympics. How this presence be “capitalised” on by the athletes and as motivation for the population of Lausanne to participate in sport and physical activity?
With no less than seven athletes, Lausanne was well represented in Tokyo. This is the result of the excellent work carried out by sports clubs and associations in the region, as well as the active policy pursued by the City of Lausanne in this area.
Often what prompts us to start a sport or physical activity are the exploits of an athlete who made us dream; it is also a friend or a loved one. Example and inspiration are two powerful motivators.
In Lausanne, we are fortunate to be able to count on proximity between the athletes and the population. For example, Olympians Timea Bacsinszky (tennis) and Sarah Atcho (athletics) took part in the campaign “Leave the stereotypes in the locker room”. Like other elite sportswomen and athletes, they are regularly involved in public events. For a public authority, it is by cultivating these close ties, by promoting the exploits of confirmed or aspiring athletes, by supporting them in their practice, that they will become a source of inspiration to young people … and to those less young.
As a member of the Union’s Executive Committee, how do you see the future of the Association?
Three axes seem important to me to pursue. First, it is important for the association to stay the course on questions of heritage, a living heritage that can open up to issues such as the place of women in sport. For this, synergies could be developed with the World Observatory for Women, Sport, Physical Education and Physical Activity, which is established in Lausanne … and of course, synergies with the Lausanne policy mentioned above.
A second axis concerns sport as a tool for resilience. After the difficult 18 months that we have just lived and those that still await us, solidarity has been expressed between the Olympic cities. It opens the door to discussions on the theme of resilient cities and the tools to be implemented to achieve this.
Finally, as municipal authorities, we must find a balance in the management of our territory: what place should be reserved for public spaces, sports infrastructures, housing, or mobility? As organisers of the Olympic Games, we have acquired valuable expertise in hosting major events, in managing their heritage, in the development of their organisation: distribution of venues over a larger territory, involvement of neighbouring regions, as was the case during the YOG Lausanne 2020.
With the profound changes that are going through our societies today, the growing sensitivity to climate change, thinking about these issues and providing answers to them is more necessary and stimulating. I look forward to doing it with you.