18th European Youth Team Championships Page 2 Bulletin 11 - Wednesday Evening, 17 July  2002

EBL Youth Committee Chairman's Closing Speech

Mr Mayor
Mr President of the World Bridge Federation
Ladies and Gentlemen
Dear Friends


Panos Gerontopoulos
EBL Youth Cmte Chairman

Thank you very much for attending this ceremony which comes at the end of a wonderful tournament. We are here to honour the winners of the 18th European Youth Team Championships, and at the same time to celebrate one of the great moments of Junior bridge. The presence of so many distinguished authorities tonight speaks for itself. We are especially happy to welcome the President of the World Bridge Federation José Damiani, as we did a few days ago with Gianarrigo Rona, the President of the European Bridge League. They are both great friends and dedicated supporters of Junior bridge - and we thank them wholeheartedly for that.

The Youth Team Championships is the primary event of the European Youth Programme. Indeed, this programme was launched when the Team Championship took off the ground, a third of a century ago, thanks to the idealism and determination of one man, André Boekhorst. 34 years later, we are fortunate to enjoy a full-scale activity, with international events organized regularly for all categories of young players. What was once very difficult to accept even as an idea, is now regarded by our administration as a priority - indeed, an investment for the future. Together with our bid to be included in the Olympic Games, Junior bridge represents the best hope for the welfare of our sport.

As we are looking into the future and try to determine the best possible ways to further expand bridge among young people, at the same time we are careful to protect what we have achieved so far and preserve the methods that have led us to success. The tournament in Torquay will go on record as a great competition; however, it will also be remembered as the place where the European Youth programme came under the microscope of the National Juniors' Officials before being re-confirmed by the European Federations with an overwhelming majority.

We would like to say quite clearly in all directions that, with the support of our member countries, we are determined to:

  • Keep offering our young players the right environment by running the Youth Teams Championships (Juniors & Schools) and the Junior Pairs Championship as completely separate events from the other categories. These events will be organized with maximum technical quality but no luxury requirements.
  • Continue to stage, enhance and develop the Junior Camps as events of social competition among young players of all levels in a free environment.
  • Care about all young players, not just the top ones.
  • Ensure that Junior bridge will be subsidized as much as possible to be affordable, and will never be seen as a direct or indirect source of income.

Here in Torquay, we grasped the opportunity to explain that under the present structure and financial reality, the EBL Youth programme is necessarily confined to the upper age range of young players, as it addresses Juniors from 17 to 25 years old. Programmes for young teenagers - already run successfully by some countries - have requirements that can only be met at national level. We fully support these long-term programmes, and hope that they will bear fruit one day. We maintain, however, that these are no substitutes for Junior bridge, as it is the Juniors who are present in our sport today. They are the ones who make our events happen, the ones who offer bridge the sports image that is so useful for our bid to join the Olympic Games and for promoting its status among educational authorities.

Bridge is a sport of the mind. It takes statistical knowledge, personal skill, good technique and long training to become a top player. However, bridge has an additional dimension that distinguishes it from chess and other mind sports. This is the social element. The world of bridge is certainly not for loners. Take away the team cooperation and spirit, the club atmosphere, the pair's corporate effort - and what you are left with is a dry and unappealing mathematical exercise.

Juniors are well acquainted with the social world. They are mostly the ones who look for new friends in their own environment. When a new relationship can be combined with a new interest, the situation is ideal. Bridge leads to such a direction. Bridge is not an alternative to one's studies or work, nor does it compete with physical sports. A healthy body combines with a healthy mind to make a good person. Bridge takes care of the health of the mind, exactly as physical sports deal with the health of the body. They are both complements to a young person's education and profession. But whereas there are many physical sports to choose from, bridge is one of the very few mind sports available. That is why it is so useful to society.

If we were to restrict our interest in Junior bridge only to the top, we would be depriving the young generation of the social dimension of our sport. The great stars are always in the front run of every sport - and bridge is no exception. However, we are indeed looking forward to embracing the great mass of ordinary youngsters who have a plan for their future life and a great variety of interests albeit limited time for each one of them. We are very much interested in their general input, and can assure them that they will not feel outsiders in our world.
If the Youth Team Championships are reserved for the top young players, the Junior Pairs and Junior Camp are open to everyone, and should not be missed by anyone. They are arranged in a fast and exciting way. Participants play a lot and learn a lot. Above all, one enjoys a great environment. An environment suitable for a great variety of sports, for creating new but lasting friendships, for discovering one's own personality, for having fun - yes, lots of fun!

The next Junior Pairs Championship and Camp will be held in Hungary. The venue will be a magnificent sports centre used for the training of top Olympic athletes, near the town of Tata, some 70 km from the Hungarian capital, Budapest. Detailed information will be released in the autumn, but you can already mark in your diary that the period from the 4th to the 14th of July 2003 will be spent in Tata, Hungary, enjoying the Junior Pairs Championship and Junior Camp.

The 2003 Junior events in Tata follow the most successful European Youth Championships we had this year here in Torquay. We are particularly pleased with the record participation of 15 countries in the Schools series, and hope that a new record will be set next time. With 22 teams, attendance in the Junior series was also satisfactory, but there is certainly room for improvement. We look forward to welcoming again such regular participants of past events as Iceland, Ireland, Portugal and Switzerland, and of course to seeing other countries too.

The world of bridge attaches great importance to the young players. This is evident in a number of ways, none the least the quality of organization in the Junior tournaments. In Torquay, this reached very high levels indeed, thanks to the great effort put forward by the English Bridge Union, our host, and of course, our top international staff. We were very lucky to have enjoyed such treatment, and we can do nothing less but to express our sincere thanks to the people who made it all possible.

First and foremost is the Chairman of the English Bridge Union David Harris.

The most visible hero of the preparatory stage, the person who guided our steps to reach Torquay safely - and not only: Tournament Secretary Sandra Claridge.

The first person we met upon arrival was another great lady for whom we were all her children - so much she cared:

Hospitality Supervisor Margaret Curtis.

While settling down, someone was working hard looking after every single organizational detail - however unimportant: Main Office Supervisor John Neville.

Here comes the person who has put everything together leaving nothing to chance - yet quiet and serene: Organizing Committee Chairman and On-site Organizer Tom Bradley.

Once the competition went underway, we met the team of top Tournament Directors headed by Antonio Riccardi, Marc van Beijsterveldt, Mike Amos, Jan Boets, Fearghal O'Boyle, John Pyner.

The Appeals Committee had fortunately little to do, but did it well. Thank you Chairman Steen Moeller.

They say that bridge is not a spectator sport, but Bridge Rama proves them wrong. Thank you Commentators Barry Rigal and Chris Dixon. And thank you technicians, Harvey Fox, Paul Still, Nick Doe, Christine Duckworth, Andrew Snell and Peter Baxter.

Today, we are nothing without good communication. This was taken care of in a most professional manner by our staff who kept us and the world well informed of what was going on here:

  • Daily Bulletin Editors Brian Senior and Peter Gill, and Layout Editor George Hatzidakis.
  • Internet Editor George Georgopoulos and Photographer Marco Marin.
  • Press Room Manager Ken Richardson.

There is always a danger to disappoint someone by neglecting to acknowledge his/her contribution, and I am afraid that it is very difficult to name everyone who contributed to this success. I should not, however, forget the wonderful hospitality team, the army of caddies, the chief scorer Linda Greenland - and, of course, the duplication team under Gill Pain.

Last, but by no means least, comes the Tournament Manager Max Bavin, and the person always to blame whenever something goes wrong:

Operations Director Dimitri Ballas.

I can already hear Stefan worrying, but unnecessarily so. I am most indebted to the members of the Youth Committee who are always present working hard to ensure that your events will be just the way you like them. Thank you Stefan Back, Anna Gudge and Andrea Pagani.

Finally, dear friends, it my most pleasant duty to thank most sincerely all of you, the players, the captains, the coaches, and all Federation officials who contributed, each one from his own post, to adding yet another bright page in the golden book of Junior bridge. I hope that you had a good time in Torquay and will remember this tournament for many years to come.

It only remains for me to wish you all a safe journey back home, and to renew our appointment for Tata in Hungary, in a year's time.

Take care and see you soon.

Panos Gerontopoulos

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