Deputy Chief of Mission Burger’s Remarks at Front Runners in Sports Management 4.0 Conference 

Saturday, April 2nd, 2022, 14.00 pm

Kalispera sas.  I would like to thank the Sports Management Society of Deree for inviting me to join you today.

On behalf of Ambassador Pyatt, and the entire U.S. Embassy, I would also like to thank President Horner for your leadership and for our great cooperation throughout the years.

Since its establishment in the 1820s, the American College of Greece has provided Greek and American students with exceptional opportunities for intellectual and educational exchange.  It has played a key role in deepening our countries’ historic friendship and our shared democratic values.

I would like to congratulate Deree for the work you’ve done through your Sports Management program, cultivating leaders and students who believe they can make a change through sports.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to mention the heartbreaking events unfolding in Ukraine and the inexcusable loss of innocent lives there.

Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has shuttered the peace of a sovereign country.  Putin’s actions are threatening the stability and prosperity not only of the wider region, but of the entire global order.  We can’t allow this to continue.  We must all work together to protect the democratic values that unite us.

At this critical moment, I’m proud to say that the United States’ partnership with Greece has reached a historic high.  Our shared priorities with Greece are fully aligned, including in our steadfast support for Ukraine sovereignty.

Many of the values that unite our peoples — equality, inclusion, and perseverance — constitute the global foundation for sports that athletes and sport organizations around the world respect and honor.

Ancient Greeks considered sports an integral part of their lifelong education, embodied in their 2000-year-old saying of “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. I hold the outmost respect for Greece as it has played such an important and historic role in the development of athletic competition.

And sports continue to unite athletes and fans from both of our countries today – whether that’s enjoying the incredible feats of Giannis Antetokounmpo or Maria Sakkari.

Throughout the years, the U.S. Embassy has joined Greece in numerous major sports events and occasions, showcasing the important role sports can play in diplomacy and advancing our people-to-people ties.

We’ve welcomed thousands of American athletes who have come to participate in the annual Athens Classic Marathon over the years.  Americans proudly competed in the 2004 Athens Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Our current First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, was the head of the U.S. delegation to the 2011 Athens Special Olympics World Games.

In 2019, we welcomed the members of the U.S. Olympic sailing team.  Last year, the U.S. Men’s Water Polo team trained in Athens with their Greek counterparts ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.  Athletes serve as positive role models, especially for our youth.

That’s why we are all very proud at the Embassy of our partnership with gold medalist Olympian Sofia Bekatorou who has broken barriers for women throughout her incredible career.  We’ve worked closely with Sofia on sports exchanges and promoting women’s empowerment.

Sofia is currently a participant in the U.S. Global Women Sports Mentoring Program, an exchange program organized by the State Department’s Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs.  This mentoring program brings together premiere women sports figures from all over the world to learn from leading American sports executives.

We also commend Sofia for her courage in leading change on a much larger scale through Greece’s #MeToo movement in addressing sexual abuse and harassment.

Athletes in the United States, Greece, and around the world are dealing with serious challenges and can be a driving force for social change.

The U.S. Embassy is also proud to host a Sports Envoy program this summer in Athens and Thessaloniki.  Although the details are still under development, I am happy to offer a preview of the program.

In a couple of months, we will welcome to Greece two American female soccer players for a series of engagements with local Greek soccer teams.  They’ll also meet with community and civil society organizations focusing on women’s empowerment.  They’ll discuss how to use sports to encourage the integration of marginalized groups and to help fight violence.

Sports have the power to bring people together, help them overcome adversities, build stronger communities and foster excellence and innovation.

As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that we ensure equal access to sports and fitness activities for everyone.

At the U.S. Embassy, we will continue investing in our sports collaboration with Greece, honoring the great athletics history of the country.

I wish you all the best for the conference.

Efcharisto poli.