Holly back from Doha GOALS (Gathering of All Leaders in Sport) forum in Qatar

It was an honour to be invited to the inaugural Doha GOALS—Gathering of All Leaders in Sport—Forum held at the Aspire Academy in Doha from 10-12 December 2012. Under the high patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hama Bin Khalifa Al-Thani (The Emir of Qatar), the event was produced by Richard Attias and Associates and attended by 2,800 invited participants from 62 countries.

Doha GOALS featured an incredible line-up of some of the world’s most powerful and acclaimed individuals in sport today. Speakers included Nicolas Sarkozy (President of the French Republic 2007-2012), His Excellency Ali Bongo Ondimba (President, Gabonese Republic), Olusegun Obasanjo (Former President of Nigeria), Nawal El Moutawakel (Vice President, IOC), Lord Coe (Chairman of the London Organizing Committee), Sepp Blatter (President FIFA), as well as CEOs of a number of major sporting companies and non-profit organizations, and high profile athletes such as Carl Lewis (Olympic Champion Track and Field), Ian Thorpe (Multiple Olympic Champion, Swimming) and Oscar Pistorius (multiple Paralympian).

As well as panel presentations, and time-out interviews with world-class athletes, the Forum also included four thought-provoking ‘taskforce’ or think-tank sessions on topics such as “How can federations and sporting governing bodies achieve more?” “How do we encourage more girls and women to participate in sport?” “How do we use sports to alleviate social challenges facing children and youth and young adults?” and “How do we improve the balance sheet for sports?” The aim of these taskforce sessions was to identify some key initiatives that would then be actioned in the months following the event. Each panel commenced with a high profile panel of speakers, before breaking into groups to brainstorm problems, and then the following day to work on realistic suggestions for implementation.

Of course, I attended the task-force focused on improving the situation for women in sport. During this task-force I worked with some of the most powerful women in sport to identify key issues and brainstorm solutions. Some of the women I had the honor of meeting during these sessions included Mori Taheripour (Senior Advisor, Sport for Development, USAID), Dr Margaret Talbot (President, International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education), Donna de Varona (Executive Board Member, IOC Women and Sports Commission, and Olympic Champion swimmer), Marcia Dyson (Founder & CEO, Women’s Global Initiative), Shannon Hiller (Program Manager, Mighty Girls in Cambodia), and Niina Toroi (Co-ordinator, International Working Group on Women and Sport), and Astrid Aafjes (Founder and President of Women Win), and Dr Stephane Bermon (a sports and exercise physiologist living in Monaco who led the ‘Gender Issues’ in sport report for the IOC).

To facilitate these taskforce sessions, iPads were distributed to each group to enter their best ideas. The brainstorming sessions were intense flurries of activity, and the ‘data analysis’ of the ideas entered into the iPads took place within minutes.

It will be a few months until we identify the key issues and strategies for addressing some of the most important problems facing women and girls wanting to play sports around the world. However, a wonderful part of these taskforce sessions was that they created opportunities for conversations with individuals from across the world who are actively involved in the sports industry at all levels, ranging from grassroots non-profit sport for development programs in Cambodia and Brazil, to founders and presidents of international sporting for-profit and non-profit organizations.

During my conversations with many of these inspirational leaders in sport, I discussed our Fuel Aotearoa project. Many seemed very excited about this website and expressed an interest in sharing it with the girls and women in their own countries, and involved in their own projects.