Following the success of previous Sports Festivals dating all the way back to the 1980s, this year’s European Sports Festival (ESF) reached new heights. Participants, spectators, and volunteers travelled from all over Europe and across the UK to meet, compete, and unite. Over 1,600 participants competed in over 40 sporting categories including football, netball, badminton, swimming, golf, basketball, tennis, and volleyball. Parasport sessions such as sitting throwball, wheelchair basketball, and walking football, as well as non-competitive sports such as rock climbing and Kabaddi were open to all.
One of the legacies of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees includes international programmes such as the Jubilee Games, Jubilee Arts, and the Global Encounters camps. These initiatives are designed to bring the community together at an international scale, strengthening the spirit of One Jamat. ESF 2019 represented a springboard that spoke to this vision.
Several Jamati institutions collaborated to offer a variety of health and active living workshops and presentations on topics such as building resilience in our youth and emotional wellbeing, as well as activities such as yoga and Tai Chi. The Aga Khan Health Board also offered diabetes screenings and successfully ran a bone marrow registration drive. Other highlights included a collaboration between i-CERV and the Salvation Army to pack gift bags for the homeless, and the Aga Khan Foundation’s 10K Run, 5K Walk and 1K Fun-Run, which raised funds to help build resilience against climate change in Northern Afghanistan.
Members of the Jamat from European countries attended in strong numbers, became an integral part of both the planning and execution of ESF 2019, and made up part of the youngest ever ESF organising team. The diversity of the Jamat was further celebrated at a multicultural party on Sunday, where all were invited to dress in traditional attire and enjoy a mix of Bollywood, Central Asian, Middle Eastern, and European favourites. The weekend also included a comedy cabaret night and a performance from the renowned Indian recording artist Shadab Faridi, who stirred the senses and got the audience on their feet.
The weekend-long event illustrated the professionalism and commitment of all those who served in a voluntary capacity across a number of areas, from sports management and daytime activities, to evening entertainment, first-aid, catering, and more. All those who served before and during the event became a part of the volunteer legacy during a special year — the centenary of the Ismaili Volunteer Corps.
In recognition of all those who served, Al-karim Nathoo, chairman of the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board in the UK said, “The European Sports Festival showcased the commitment, hard work, and dedication of hundreds of volunteers, without whom ESF simply would not have been possible. A special note of gratitude goes to all the volunteers who gave their time and skills to make ESF 2019 a truly momentous event.”
As the sun began to set on Easter Sunday in Nottingham, the European Sports Festival Closing Ceremony took place, marking the end to a family weekend where members of the Jamat of all ages and abilities had an opportunity to participate in sport, appreciate the importance of good health and active living, feel a sense of belonging, and be inspired to serve.