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SLOVENIA, A SPORTS DESTINATION IN THE HEART OF EUROPE

Rogaška Slatina is hosting the first international film festival of sports documentary and feature films in Slovenia between 16 and 19 June. The three-day program will feature more than 35 films on sports and Olympism. Part of the story are also the ambassadors of the Women’s EHF Euro 2022, who participated in Saturday’s round table on women’s sports.

The discussion at the European Platform was attended by Maja Zalaznik, lecturer at the Faculty of Economics in Ljubljana, Maja Pak, director of the Slovenian Tourist Board – both are also ambassadors of the European Championship – and Anja Frešer, head of the Slovenian women’s handball team and former Slovenian national team member. The debate highlighted many positive aspects of the organization of sports events in our country. The interlocutors agreed that sport is not just an activity that connects players and fans, but sports tourism through the support of their club or an important economic aspect for the country.

“We have sport in our genes, and at the same time we are proud of the destinations that Slovenia offers. We are interesting 365 days a year,” Pak is convinced. The organization of sports competitions – Slovenia has been hosting the Junior World Handball Championship since Wednesday, and the Women’s EHF Euro 2022 in November – is an opportunity to present Slovenia to potential tourists and fans. “Our task is to impress them before they arrive and we must do everything to stay in Slovenia as long as possible, to make them feel at home with us.”

“Slovenians are exceptional hosts,” says Zalaznik. “Apart from living with sports, we are also very professional. It is also important to mention volunteering in sports, which is huge in our country,” with which Slovenia, as a destination in the heart of Europe, offers a complete package.

The legacy of big competitions is reflected on several levels, the interlocutors agree. Both in the number of overnight stays, as well as in the progress of the players and the development of the sport as such. “Our wish is for as many children as possible to try their handball. Athletes’ appearances at major competitions entail greater enrollment in clubs, greater media support and more mass physical activity of young people,” Frešer is convinced. Physically active children after the pandemic, which unfortunately brought about an increase in obesity, are an important effect of great competitions and the success of athletes in the long run.

Despite the fact that we live in the 21st century, men’s and women’s sports are not yet equal. It is one of the pillars of the Old Continent Championship, which draws on the sporting part of the competition, the empowerment of women in sport and society in general, and sustainability. “We play the same sport on the same dimension of the field, but handball players are paid less, we also get less sponsorship funds,” warns Frešer. “Slovenia can certainly become a model example of how to approach the field of sustainability with a little care and planning,” adds Zalaznik.

And what are the wishes for the Women’s EHF Euro 2022, which Slovenia is starting against Denmark? “In sports, we like to say we go step by step. I can assure you that we will do our best and measure the success, given the complexity of the group, by breaking through to the main part of the competition, which will take place in Stožice.” Slovenia will play its first matches in Celje.

The World U20 Handball Championship starts on June 22 in Celje, where handball players from 32 countries from all over the world will perform. The wish of our national team is that the stands will be as colorful as possible in the colors of the Slovenian flag, and they themselves promise that, as the slogan of the November EP says, they will play with their hearts. And uncompromising. Until the last seconds.

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