After the achievements in Taekwondo at the Tokyo Olympic Games, where Europe won five gold medals and the team leadership, it is important to know the opinions of the leaders of this region of the world.
It is really educational, essential to know the mentality of the vision of a continent that has surpassed even the creators (Korea) of the discipline, and power countries such as China, Taipei, and Iran, all from Asia.
We are pleased to present an interview with the leader of Taekwondo in Europe, Mr. Sakis Pragalos, President of the European Taekwondo Union.
What does Taekwondo mean to you?
First of all, thank you for the opportunity to do this interview with you! For me
Taekwondo is my life’s work. It has been the center of my life for many years and I hope
that it stays that way for many years to come!! I just love the sport, the people and the
work that I am doing!
What has been your life experience in this discipline? What motivated you to participate in this important position of President in one of the most important organizations of this sport, the ETU?
I started as an athlete and then became International Referee. I was president of the Greek Taekwondo Federation and after that Secretary-General of ETU. We were in those days not the same organization as we are now, but I was very much motivated to shape ETU.
Therefore in 1999 I was elected as President and started with my work for ETU
and tried to realize my vision for Taekwondo in Europe. Each time when I see athletes
doing Taekwondo, either in their clubs, at competitions or at the Olympics like in Tokyo,
I get so much energy and motivation to do a better job! Those athletes need good
leadership with a vision for their future!
With the Covid 19 pandemic, we have had very difficult moments for humanity,
how do you feel that the Taekwondo community in Europe has handled this
I think all the countries did what they could. Many events were cancelled due to
government regulations and also, we as ETU have suffered due to the pandemic. Many
events were cancelled and this had a great impact on our staff. We tried to review the
situation in each country with which we had scheduled an ETU event. We first started
with competition again in Croatia last year. With the right protocols, adaptations and support we were able to manage the event satisfactorily and it give us the opportunity to organize more events!
Do you have any figures on the number of Taekwondo practitioners in Europe?
It is really hard to say. Some people say tens of millions, other say a few million. At the end of the day, I think its somewhere in between 1-2 million I believe!
Which are the countries in Europe that have the most Taekwondo practitioners?
Russia, Spain, Italy and Turkey are I think the largest countries with a Taekwondo
population, We don’t have good numbers though as we do not register the athletes in all countries.
Some of Europe’s major capitals have become important venues for world
Taekwondo events. Why is this? How is the sport viewed in Europe?
We love sports in Europe. But moreover, our member federations are very
professional and have excellent skills to organize events at the World level. Great Britain, Turkey, Bulgaria and Azerbaijan are just a few examples of countries that exactly know how to manage large, global events.
If you could make one wish for Taekwondo in Europe, what would it be.
I would wish that all athletes, officials and participants in our sport have the
opportunity to follow their dreams and ambitions and that Taekwondo gives them
guidance during their journey!
How is the European Taekwondo Union valued, in terms of good governance
We have in the past years passed several regulations to meet the good governance
standards of the EU. We report on what we do, we are accountable to our members and we always involve our council and/or members in the policy decision making process. But good governance is more than that alone. We have many good persons working in our organization and it is them who make ETU what ETU has become today: a professional organization, based on a solid foundation of not only good governance but
also with the support of an amazing staff and officials making ETU one of the strongest Continental Unions in the world.
What future do you envision for World Taekwondo?
I think our sport has developed into an amazing global sport in the past decade. I see a
very bright future for Taekwondo! With the current technological developments, I think
the best is yet to come! I will do my very best to make sure that Taekwondo will
continue to grow, and that our athletes will have only the best opportunities to become