By Sahar Petri
On July 25-27, four undergraduates and one MBA student from the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center had the opportunity to attend the 4th annual Doha GOALS (Gathering of All Leaders in Sports) Forum in Los Angeles, California. The conference represented 80 countries and featured 120 speakers from the sports and entertainment industry.
This year the forum was in partnership with the Special Olympics, which was also hosting the 2015 Global Summer Games while we were there. The first day we sat in on the GenUin: Social Olympics Social Impact Summit, and we heard inspiring speakers from ESPN, Microsoft, UNICEF and Portland Trail Blazer Damian Lillard. The main idea I took away from the series was said best by Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver, “Passion can override the impossible.”
After the speaker series was over, we were bused to the historic Los Angles Memorial Coliseum to watch the opening ceremonies of the games. First Lady Michelle Obama and Jimmy Kimmel were some of the highlighted presenters along with musical performances by Stevie Wonder and Avril Lavigne. The show was nothing less than the spectacle you would expect an Olympic opening ceremony to be, but my favorite part was a small detail that might have gone unnoticed to some. At the end, when the torch was making its final entrance into the coliseum, athletes passed it down from Iran to Israel and then Cuba to United States. It was a powerful statement that showed no matter what disagreements are happening between these governments, the power of sports was able to unite these athletes to rise above current or past politics.
The following day marked the official start of the GOALS forum where panels addressed such topics as the power of diversity, globalization of sports, tackling obesity, and athlete activism. In between the panels, moderators interviewed superstars like Michael Phelps and Abby Wambach, who spent time speaking about social issues close to them. One of my personal favorite moments was Wambach bluntly calling out FIFA on women making 1/17 of men’s pay and challenging Americans to invest in women’s sports because it’s a smart thing to do.
The reason why this conference was so important is because a large part of success in the sprots industry is understanding the social issues that are driving major decisions—whether its on a business or player level. Unfortunately, in our society we spend so much time focusing on the flashy negative headlines, we forget to give power to the positive abilities sports has to change our world.
Another highlight was getting to know the students from other sports business programs around the country. It was amazing meeting like-minded students who are just as passionate about making a change through something we all love. I can’t wait to follow how we all make our marks in the industry the next few years.
Overall, a big thank you to Doha GOALS for going above and beyond in providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was so proud to spend the week representing a well-respected program like the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. There’s really nothing like being in a different state and having strangers from around the world throwing up O’s.
Sahar Petri is a junior Business Honors student from Portland studying business administration and public relations.