By 10:00am, the convention hall of the Hilton City Hotel in Tashkent was packed with guests ready to learn more about the bridges that exist between the worlds of sport and business. In the audience were members of the judo family as well as government and private sector representatives as well as many media. After the first words of welcome delivered by MD Adkhan Ikramov, Minister of Sports Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan, who was the master of ceremonies, H.E. Jamshid Khodjayev, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan, took the floor.
"I am honoured and happy to welcome you all on the occasion of this first Judo Economic Forum and I want to thank the IJF President, Marius Vizer, for giving us the opportunity to accommodate all of you on this special occasion. It is very important to develop sport. As the government of Uzbekistan, we give a lot of attention to the development of the sports industry to create the right infrastructures to help athletes and all the sport practitioners. Over recent years the Uzbek economy has been fast growing and we were able to create new jobs and implement a new tax reform. In this ever-changing world and with this positive growing economy, sport is also developing fast. It is very important because sports unite all of us."
Mr Vizer, who came to the country for the first time in 1997 and who is considered a good friend of Uzbekistan, as underlined by MD Adkhan Ikramov, then delivered his welcome speech, "The reason for our presence here today is the promotion of prosperity and friendship as well as to promote the host country of our flagship event, the World Judo Championships. We are happy that all our fans will enjoy our premium event here. For many years, our collaboration with the Uzbek authorities, the National Olympic Committee and the federation has been growing. At the same time, we have seen that the economic, political and social growth has been significant in Uzbekistan. We believe that an event such as this World Championship is not only an event for the sporting society but for the entire society. This is why such a Judo Economy Forum is necessary. It's the first of its kind and I hope and believe there will be many more.
Through this occasion we want to deliver a message to the world, a message of modernisation, development, innovation and accessibility and also a message of unity, friendship and peace. For that, the synergy between economy and sport is of the utmost importance. Sport is not only about medals and education, it is also about creating connection mechanisms to create a better world.
In a complicated world, where more pressure is put on everyone, instead of calming situations, sport can play a preponderant role in uniting cultures, religions and social backgrounds. Today the world needs peace and safety for all. The most important aspect is the safety of families. This can only be achieved through cooperation, with the respect of everyone. I can see that Uzbekistan is a young country when we look at the 80% of the population who are under the age of 30. The country has a great future and through this forum and the upcoming championships we are building a bright future for the youth."
Following those engaging words, Mr Sherzod Shermatov, Minister of Development of Information Technologies and Communications, Mr Badriddin Abidoc, Deputy Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade, Mr Davron Vakhabov, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Mr Shohruh Okhunov, Head of the Department for Ensuring the Coordinated Actions of the State Assets Management Agency, made successively thorough presentations to demonstrate the glowing health of the Uzbek economy, illustrated with graphics and data in front of a very attentive audience, pleased to discover that there are actually many opportunities available.
Following this first part of the Forum, a panel discussion, with the theme 'Trends in finance, technology, society and IT supporting a prosperous future' and moderated by Mr Vlad Marinescu, the IJF Director General, took place, with the participation of Mr Marius Vizer, MD Adkhan Ikramov, Mr Viktor Huszár (CEO of FITEQ), Mr Oleg Pekos (First Deputy Minister of Development of Information Technologies and Communications), Mr Gábor Emori (CEO i-Cell) and Mr Islom Jasimov (Deputy Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry).
Before the question and answer session, all participants underlined the importance of sport to develop a better society and highlighted the fact that it was a necessity to create bridges between the world of sports and the one of economy, the key word being education.
Mr Vizer said, "The role of governments and institutions to build structures and to have a vision for the education of the youth is very important. Because sport is about education, discipline and health and because often the practice of sport replaces the physical work done by our parents and grandparents, we have to develop cooperation between the different stakeholders. We also have to think about our champions, who will one day stop their careers and have to integrate with society; therefore integrate the economy of a country as well. For this, sport is the key. This is the reason why we need to work together. The value of sport is more important than the number of medals."
MD Adkhan Ikramov confirmed, "Sport is about discipline and culture and it helps to occupy our young people. It creates heroes, who are followed by millions of people. They are part of the economy of our country and we need to support them. The virtual circle between sports and business and economy must be supported. It will attract more people and will generate income for more families."
Vlad Marinescu summerised by saying, "Today we had sport, economic and political leaders sitting together to discuss how we can create more synergy, more cooperation and more positive feeling at all levels of society. Sport develops the leaders of the future and there is no doubt that these discussions are helping develop a better world here in Uzbekistan and across the globe."
Marius Vizer concluded, "I personally feel like a world citizen. My life is judo and my identity is judo. Through our values we can educate the youth and offer them a better life through the development of the economy."
Sports generate an economy and economy is a key factor of sports. The Judo Economic Forum was a success and brought together people from different horizons who were willing to help the youth of Uzbekistan and by extension the youth of the world. This is the starting point of something wider and bigger that will help both the sports community and the economy.