There are less than 100 days left until the start of the European Women’s Handball Championship, which will conclude on November 20 with the final showdown in Stožice. In the Slovenian capital, they believe that Ljubljana will once again attract a good number of foreign guests. “I am convinced that visitors will have fond memories of their days here,” says Tjaša Ficko, Deputy Mayor of the City of Ljubljana.

Tjaša Ficko is originally from Murska Sobota, but she works in the Slovenian capital. Since 2010, he has held the post of professional deputy mayor of the City of Ljubljana and takes care of the international visibility and reputation of the city’s brand. With the successfully implemented Green Capital of Europe 2016 project, she earned the prestigious award of the Women’s Economic Forum for a woman of decades in public life. Prior to that, the graduate in communication science gained work experience in her field. She first worked as a professional associate of the Department for Public Relations in the Mercator Business System, and later headed the Department for Public Relations in the Office of the Mayor of MOL, Zoran Janković.

Who is Tjaša Ficko?
A restless and curious person who usually has more questions than answers. I like to research, read, travel, and in general I like to be in motion. Nature relaxes me, especially the sea, which fills me with energy and inspiration. And music, it accompanies me everywhere. My meaning in life is family and friends, because of which even difficult moments are easier and everything beautiful is even sweeter. This year, I am also an enthusiastic and proud ambassador of the European Women’s Handball Championship.

The city of Ljubljana will host both the opening and final matches of the competition. What message about the capital do you want to convey to the world?
Ljubljana is a city that is easily written on one’s skin. Big enough and small enough at the same time. You can get lost in it, but at the same time you can get everywhere on foot. It is a safe, clean, welcoming and incredibly green city. These green shades of the city, especially in spring, fascinate me every year. Ljubljana’s cultural soul is also rich, where everyone can find something interesting for their taste. Ljubljana can be shamelessly compared to capitals with the highest quality of life, after all, this year we also hold the title of Europe’s best destination. And after all, Ljubljana is an exceptional sports city. Not only because of the many excellent professional sportsmen and women, but also because of the large number of recreationists and sports enthusiasts – just look at the participation in the Ljubljana Marathon or the Triple Run and the hike along the Poti, and when we are cheering in full Stožice. I wish and believe that our girls will also play in the final matches in Stožice in November, and at the same time I am sure that the visitors will have fond memories of their days with us.

Part of the Women’s EHF Euro 2022 event also focuses on the empowerment of women in sport and society in general. The Municipality of Ljubljana tackled this in a special way, with a changed silhouette on the traffic lights at the pedestrian crossings. How important is it to talk about this topic in the 21st century?
It is welcome to talk, but more importantly to do. I myself have had strong and successful women by my side since childhood, who are recognized and respected in their circles. I am grateful that the fact that I am a woman has never felt like a weakness. But I know that this is not self-evident and that many girls and women have completely different experiences. Unfortunately, even from a statistical point of view, we cannot be satisfied with the state of gender equality for the time being, and it will probably be necessary to solve this with appropriate legislative changes in addition to recommendations in the future.
If we do not proactively strive for gender equality, we are consciously giving up part of our social, intellectual and human capital. Why not capitalize on the potential and capabilities of women? In the extremely complex present, which is changing at a supersonic speed, we need all the knowledge, experience, ideas and suggestions available to solve everyday challenges. Women and men are stronger together, which is confirmed again and again in all areas. And it is also extremely important that women help and encourage each other.

If we also touch on sustainability as the second pillar of this European Championship. How sustainable are you yourself?
I’m simply trying to be environmentally responsible. Ever since I was little. This is how I was brought up, growing up close to and in contact with nature, observing the animal and plant world and trying to preserve it on my own micro level. I think that recently there have been many changes for the better in society as a whole, especially the information and awareness of the population is at a significantly higher level than before, which also brings with it more decisive demands for changes. However, there are still a lot of challenges ahead of the decision-makers and no time. He is in a hurry to take action. Both in the public and private sectors.

What advice would you give to someone who is at the beginning of their transformation into a more sustainable person? Where and how to start?
I don’t like to give advice, but as a nature lover, it bothers me if someone is disrespectful or egotistical towards it. That’s why I try to encourage others not to do to nature what they don’t want someone to do to them. She is significantly stronger than us, which she shows us more and more often. I believe that we will significantly strengthen sustainable behavior in the future. I have a lot of hope for the younger generations, who are more sensitive to the environment and louder with their demands. It is a fact that the big polluters will have to radically change their ways of operating, but it is also true that we should not underestimate the effects of the small steps each of us can take. Sometimes we mistakenly believe that we as individuals are too small to affect big changes. Well, that’s not true. Remember the rolling snowball effect.

In your opinion, why is sport so attractive for spectators, sponsors, investors, organizers, cities, countries?
Sport has many positive social effects. We perceive sportsmen and women as healthy, disciplined, hardworking and capable of achieving more than us. We often try to identify with them, so maybe we exercise more, eat healthier, get enough sleep, and the like. Sport also unites, which we see both in local and national competitions, and especially in international sporting events. And it is sport that often opens doors. Athletes are the best ambassadors of cities and countries. As much as they do to promote the destination, it is difficult for any promotional campaign to do. Large international sporting events, for which the cities compete, attract many visitors, which is felt by the entire local tourism sector and the wider service industry. Sport is also a big business with many multiplier effects and an important link in society.

In addition to the fighters on the court, the European Championship also has a group of 17 female ambassadors, including you. What impression did the female colleagues who accepted this challenge together with you leave on you?
I am proud to be part of a team of 17 strong individuals. I was impressed by the energy when we had the opportunity to hang out, and even at the first meeting, some new ideas for the future arose. I like that we come from different fields, each has its own victories and defeats behind it, many knowledge and experiences, so we can learn a lot from each other. Together, we will also be louder in delivering our messages.

What do you think will be the main legacy of the European Championship?
It depends on all stakeholders in the project. If there is a medal, then more children in handball and in sports in general will definitely be part of this legacy, which would make me especially happy. What a scrap on the knee more and what an addiction to social networks less. If our messages about the importance of sustainable behavior and gender equality in sport and in general reach and touch different generations and social groups, it will be a win for all of us. And it would be great if the championship manages to unite us even more as a nation, so that we can be kinder to each other. As naive as it may sound, I believe that kindness is an ingredient that can contribute a lot of good in society.

Why should every Slovenian man or woman watch at least one match of the Slovenian national team at the November championship?
First of all, out of respect for the sport, athletes, women and the team, which will definitely give their all for a good result. But also because of our own pleasure, relaxation, companionship and beautiful moments that we experience at matches and especially when we win. There are many reasons, and I am sure that in November we will meet en masse both in Celje and in Ljubljana.

Finally, let’s test your forecasting abilities. How far do you think our national team can go?
I’m an ambassador, announcing the final. As a supporter, I will actively help outside the field and I believe that our handball players can do it!

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