CISM - Wereldkampioenschap CROSS-COUNTRY - OOSTENDE - 11 maart 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My presence among you, here in Ostend, means a great deal to me. I have heard that your contest in the challenging discipline of cross-country running was a great success.
This championship demonstrates, once again, that the military play a crucial role in the promotion of physical fitness, of mental resilience and team spirit.
During my own military training, I experienced how valuable these assets are. They are important, not just in a military context, but in further life as well.
A special word of thanks to you. You have taken the initiative, supported by the Council, to present me with the Grand Cordon of the Order of Merit tonight. I am deeply touched by this recognition. I am all the more honoured, because the Council awarded this distinction to my uncle, King Baudouin, 48 years ago.
Your Council was established in the years following the end of the Second World War. Belgium was one of the founding members. After the bitter ordeal of this world conflict, this was a time of visionary initiatives : the United Nations, European integration, the transatlantic Alliance, the Geneva Conventions.
The founders of your organization followed a similar course. They recognized the value of friendship, of solidarity, of peaceful cooperation. And they chose to promote these noble objectives in the context of a military competition, focused on friendly contest and sport.
The Council, today, perpetuates this tradition. It creates the framework for friendly competition, but it is the competitors themselves who have to deliver the result. Let me therefore now turn to those who competed in today's event.
Dear fellow soldiers and athletes,
You can hardly imagine what a pleasure it would have been for me to join you in running today. But I think your speed was a little too fast for me. I congratulate you all for taking part in this championship.
Of course, it is always a joy to win and to celebrate a victory. But to members of the Armed Forces, victory has a very special meaning. The leader in a race may be a champion, but leadership is more than the instinct to win. Leadership, in the true sense of the word, means that you compete in a spirit of fair-play.
And in military sports, you need not only fair-play, but also comradeship, and team spirit. They are based on respect for the other and are universal values that we have to cherish in our society. I am confident that you will continue to carry them forward.
Thank you for having invited me to witness this commitment of yours today.