Paris 2024 organised the 5th Olympic and Paralympic Week (OPW) aimed at promoting the benefits of physical activity and the Olympic and Paralympic values to the youth of the nation. 3,000 schools accross France took part in the programme and developed dedicated projects, raising awareness amongst the over 500,000 students and 200 athletes involved throughout the week.
Given the COVID context, this year’s edition aimed at higlighting the benefits of physical activity to stay healthy. The French Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and Paris 2024 had previously launched a pilot initiative for 30 minutes of daily exercise in 800 schools across France. Endorsing such initiative carried out by the Ministry, in collaboration with Paris 2024, the OPW’s primary focus was the highlighting of the necessity of introducing a general 30 minutes of daily exercise in addition to PE Lessons and school sports throughout the country. More than 3 years to go before Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the intangible legacy is already being built up.
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Over 80% of young people do not meet the World Health Organization guidelines of 60 minutes of physical activity each day for 5- to 17-year-olds. “These new guidelines underline how sport and physical activity can contribute directly to physical and mental health by combating non-communicable diseases,” said IOC Medical and Scientific Director Dr Richard Budgett as the IOC welcomed the WHO guidelines. “The recommendations come at an incredibly significant time, with the world still coming to terms with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen during this time of lockdowns and physical distancing just how important it is to stay physically active.”
That’s why Paris 2024, the sporting movement, and school and university sports federations are joining forces with the French Ministry of National Education and healthcare experts to organise the OPW based on the theme of 30 minutes of exercise at school every day.
“Sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity are the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, albeit an easily avoidable one. If we recognise that we need to get moving and change our behaviour, we really can bring about long-term change. In France, an estimated 50,000 people die each year due to the repercussions of a sedentary lifestyle. We must take action.” Michel Cymes, Doctor, member of the ‘Pour une France en forme’ group, and Health Ambassador of Paris 2024.
Sedentary behaviour among children and teenagers is an issue which can be easily solved. The solution is simple – moving a bit more every day. It’s easy to implement, universally accessible and free. When practised regularly, exercise is incredibly beneficial for our health. Cardiologist and sports physician Professor François Carré says, “exercise improves cognitive function, self-esteem and social inclusion”, all of which are essential for children to develop correctly.
The Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games are a real opportunity to change attitudes and behaviour alike. By exercising at school for 30 minutes per day, children have already fulfilled half of their daily requirement to maintain good mental and physical health.
The OPW 2021, a week to raise awareness and change behaviour
The French Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sport and Paris 2024 will use the fifth OPW to promote health education and the societal values of sport while encouraging young people to get moving such as the initiative for 30 minutes of daily exercise in primary schools. A survey carried out by BVA in January 2021 revealed that the general public widely (85%) supports the implementation of this initiative in primary schools.
Good habits for well-being and health can and should be instilled at school as early as possible. It’s part of a healthy lifestyle, like getting enough sleep and eating five portions of fruits and vegetables every day. The OPW focused this year on this pilot initiative launched by the French Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sport, in collaboration with the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF), the French Paralympic and Sports Committee (CPSF), and school and university sport federations.
According to the BVA survey led in January 2021, nine out of ten people in France say that school has a key role to play in encouraging exercise and sports among children. The French Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sport focuses particularly on the OPW. “The benefits of sport are immeasurable. By making health the theme of the fifth OPW in 2021, we are encouraging teachers to give young people every opportunity to exercise as frequently and regularly as possible.” Jean-Michel Blanquer, Minister of National Education, Youth and Sports.
While the ongoing pandemic has worsened our already sedentary lifestyles and the risk of inactivity among children, “This week of highlighting PE lessons and school sports is the chance to to remind us all of just how important and vital a role regular exercise plays in protecting our health.” Roxana Maracineanu, Minister Delegate for Sport attached to the Minister of National Education, Youth and Sport.
“The OPW is a great opportunity to bring together schools and special needs institutions around a shared objective: getting everyone involved in sport as part of an inclusive approach. Practising sport is essential for well-being and health, not only for individuals but for society as a whole. That’s why we are working to make access to sport and parasport more easily accessible to people with disabilities. Preparing for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games is an opportunity for us to produce change – greater accessibility and better attitudes towards disabilities, from Paralympic athletes to the amateur level. I’m convinced that parasports could become a highlight of the Paris 2024 Games’ legacy.” Sophie Cluzel, the Secretary of State for People with Disabilities.
“At Paris 2024, our main goal is increasing the reach of sport in people’s lives. We wanted to make children aware of the simple fact that getting moving every day is crucial for good health.” Tony Estanguet, President of the Paris 2024 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
In addition to the https://eduscol.education.fr/ platform, and to help teachers roll out health-related projects, particularly to promote 30 minutes of daily exercise, Paris 2024 has launched a special platform: https://generation.paris2024.org/. It features educational content and resources from the Ministry, academies and sports federations to implement the OPW. These ready-to-use tools give teachers the ability to guarantee 30 minutes of exercise every day in their pupils’ school lives, in addition to their PE lessons.
We can also count on the unwavering support of committed athletes like Astrid Guyart, an Olympic fencer for France and children’s author who goes to schools to introduce students to her discipline and thinks that sport is “a true metaphor for well-being and a unique way to find out who you are through personal development.”
The 2021 OPW programme
Every day from 1st - 6th February, a pair of French athletes or well-known faces held a live online 30-minutes exercise or sports video on the Paris 2024 Facebook page, which was also shared with all of the schools taking part in the OWP. This was followed by a 30-minutes discussion between the students and the athletes on Facebook.
The plan for the week involved:
▪ BBoy Lagaet and BGirl Kami (breaking)
▪ Sarah Ourahmoune and Sandra Laoura (boxing)
▪ Samir Aït Saïd and Angélina Lanza (physical training)
▪ McFly and Carlito
▪ Clarisse Agbegnenou and Hélène Defrance (cardio)
▪ Best of the week for a family session at home
Athletes appeared both in person and virtually at a number of schools in France to meet students, present their sport and their journey, held taster sessions and remind everyone of the importance of exercising every day such as Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist and world record holder in the Decathlon Kevin Mayer, Rio 2016 silver medallist in Judo Clarisse Agbegnenou and Paralympic champion Marie-Amélie Le Fur, to discover their sports and get inspired by their stories. Videos featuring athletes and influencers were shared on social media, and broadcast in schools, followed by 30-min live sessions allowing students and teachers to interact.