Leveling the Playing Field through Sports Diplomacy in Paris, France

Alumni TIES
5 min readMay 15, 2024


Sports touch nearly every society and culture with the power to bring millions and even billions of people together. Changemakers around the world are hoping to use sports as an avenue for greater inclusion and equity in their communities. Forty of these ExchangeAlumni changemakers descended on Paris in March 2024 from 28 countries in Europe, Eurasia, and the United States for “Alumni TIES Paris: Diversity and Inclusion in Sports Diplomacy.” These impressive alumni consisted of athletes from sports ranging from judo to ice hockey, community organizers and coaches, and government officials and policy advocates.

Participants take pictures at the Welcome Reception.
Participants pose for a group photo after the Opening Reception.

In the shadow of the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics, these 40 alumni arrived in Paris eager to connect and develop themselves into strong and effective sports diplomats. The seminar began with remarks from Michael Turner, Counselor for Cultural Affairs at U.S. Embassy Paris, and Samuel Ducroquet, Ambassador for Sport for France. Both highlighted their own history of working together with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and now Paris to strengthen U.S. and French ties as an example of sports diplomacy in action. In their remarks, Michael Turner and Ambassador Ducroquet emphasized the importance of the next decade in sports with both France and the United States hosting major international competitions, such as the Olympics and the World Cup.

Panelists presenting on diversity and inclusion initiatives from their work.

The group then heard from a panel of participants with Madelina Young-Smith, director of the Office of Alumni Affairs, serving as moderator. Participants set the tone for the week by sharing their experiences working with women, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrant populations, and people with disabilities to make sports an inclusive environment and a tool for positive change in their home communities. Throughout the week, participants were also invited to take part in “Lightning Talks” centered around different themes such as adaptive sports and building gender equity in sports. In these informal, ten-minute presentations multiple participants briefly shared their work with small groups to form deeper connections and possible collaborations. Meanwhile, other breakout sessions such as “Movement Therapy as a Tool for Improved Mental Health” put theory into practice by using physical activity, adapted to participants’ physical abilities, to show how movement can be incorporated into daily life.

Participants in “Movement Therapy as a Tool for Improved Mental Health” breakout session.

While most sessions are facilitated and led by participants, the alumni were also able to take advantage of local resources in Paris with the help of U.S. Embassy Paris. An off-site visit to the state-of-the-art Philharmonie de Paris was arranged to meet with artist Rachel Marks. Rachel, an American-born artist, is currently working on an art installation for the Olympics, sponsored by French soccer star Kylian Mbappé’s foundation. Participants were even able to contribute to the artwork and discuss how art and sports often intertwine. Additionally, some participants traveled to see the beautiful French American Mural Art in the Saint Ouen neighborhood just north of Paris. The small group met with the mural artist, Caroline Devreaux, and neighborhood leaders to discuss sports and community engagement in the Saint Ouen community. Local leaders offered insights into how the Paris 2024 Olympics are positively impacting the neighborhood through increased investment and engagement with residents. Lastly, All Parisian Games, a youth basketball organization that seeks to translate playing skills to success off the court, traveled to the hotel to present on their widely popular youth basketball leagues and all-star tournament. Their presentation inspired many participants to hopefully return to Paris to observe the all-star basketball tournaments and share best practices with All Parisian Games organizers.

Participants visit the French American Mural Art project.

Outside of the seminar meetings and visits, participants took part in a private tour of Spot 24, a new sport and culture museum, to learn more about the six new Olympic disciplines. The group studied the history of breaking and skateboarding while learning how the Paris 2024 Olympics will spotlight these new disciplines. The group then made the quick trip from Spot 24 to visit Paris’ most iconic landmark, the Eiffel Tower. After numerous group pictures, the group explored central Paris on their own time.

Participants pose for a group picture at the Eiffel Tower.

The seminar concluded with a closing reception hosted by U.S. Embassy Paris at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence. Participants heard remarks from Ambassador Denise Campbell Bauer, Chef Dawn Burell, and Mayor of Los Angeles Karen Bass, host of the 2028 Olympics, along with local sports leaders in France. The group concluded the seminar on a high note after hearing their remarks, enjoying food made by Chef Burrell, and inspired to return to their homes to continue their work as sports diplomats.

Participants at the Closing Reception at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence.

Alumni TIES is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and supported in its implementation by World Learning, in partnership with the Office of Alumni Affairs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).



Alumni TIES

Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (Alumni TIES) are regionally focused seminars for alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs.