Meriem Cherni Mizouni

Week 64 (6 - 12 December 2014)

In a week in which the International Olympic Committee unanimously chose a new set of coordinates for its course over the next five years, it was perhaps no surprise that it also decided to honour a lady whose life's work seems to have been a precursor to several of the recommendations contained in Olympic Agenda 2020.

Meriem Cherni Mizouni of Tunisia was awarded the prestigious Women and Sport World Trophy for 2014 at the 127th IOC Session earlier this week and is a walking embodiment of the idea sweeping through the Olympic Movement that sport, as Thomas Bach said in his opening speech in Monaco, is "too important in society to ignore the rest of society."

Mizouni, who competed in swimming at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, has always possessed a strong sense of societal duty and care. As a young national champion in Tunisia she decided that she "wanted all the girls in Tunisia to experience the joy of standing on the podium and seeing their national flag raised at international sports events." Her career since has led her to become a coach, trainer and leader, an international swimming judge, Chairwoman of the Tunisian Olympic Committee's Women and Sport Commission, and Secretary of State for Sport.

Yet Mizouni feels her achievements have gone well beyond the borders of sport and have influenced other important parts of Tunisian society. As she explained after receiving her award from IOC President Thomas Bach:

"This is the greatest reward for a whole life devoted to sport. But it is above all a reward for Tunisian women generally. So I am proud for Tunisian women, who over time have become a symbol for the struggle against hatred and violence; proud for my NOC, which is resolutely engaged in supporting the Olympic values; and for my country, which since achieving independence has never stopped striving for progress, openness and tolerance."

As a strategic roadmap, Olympic Agenda 2020 has ultimately been drafted and voted in with the aim of putting Olympic sport at the service of society in order to better society.

But if the Olympic Movement is to reach this destination then the role of people like Mizouni in staging a respectful dialogue between the sporting world and society will be key.

Photo: Sportcode