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Interview

Gareth Wittstock: «Promoting a healthy lifestyle and having a positive impact on society»

Gareth Wittstock princess charlene
Gareth Wittstock alongside his sister, Princess Charlene © Princess Charlene Foundation

Princess Charlene’s brother and businessman Gareth Wittstock has become a highly visible figure in the Principality, through his role as Secretary General of his sister’s charity, the Princess Charlene Foundation, and his many appearances at major sporting and charity events.

Gareth Michael Wittstock is certainly known for being Princess Charlene’s younger brother, but that’s not all. Born on 25 June 1982 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Gareth Wittstock grew up in South Africa along with his sister Charlene, who became the Princess Consort of Monaco after marrying Prince Albert II in 2011.

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As published in the Principality’s official bulletin on April 27, 2022, Gareth Wittstock became a naturalised Monegasque that same year. His naturalisation enabled him to fully integrate in Monaco, where he lives, invests and works.

Having trained as a computer engineer, Gareth Wittstock worked in a variety of fields before moving to Monaco, where he became involved in several charitable initiatives, including the Princess Charlene Foundation, where he has held the position of Secretary General since 2018. The Foundation, created in 2012 by his sister, is dedicated to preventing drowning and to educating children through sport.

The businessman also has a passion for major sporting events, and can regularly be seen at the Formula 1 Grand Prix, AS Monaco matches, cycling competitions or the Monaco Impi’s rugby sevens tournaments.

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His close bond with his sister and his philanthropic commitments have made him a respected and much loved figure in the Principality. Gareth Wittstock agreed to answer our questions about his missions and projects.

Gareth Wittstock during the Calvi to Monaco  Crossing in 2020 © Fondation Princesse Charlène

Mr. Wittstock, first of all, how are you?

Hello! I’m very well thank you very much, I hope you are too!

You are Secretary General of the Princess Charlene Foundation. What are your current responsibilities and what actions are planned for 2024?

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It is a role that I take very seriously, especially because it touches on a cause that is dear both to me and to my older sister, Princess Charlene: teaching children around the world to swim, and promoting educational values through sport.

The Foundation’s mission is to make youngsters aware of the dangers of water and teach them how to swim, while instilling values such as discipline, respect and team spirit.

As Secretary General, my mission is to oversee, with the help of my colleagues within the Foundation and our partners, the smooth running and efficient organisation of our international projects.

This includes ensuring that each initiative is in line with our shared objectives and achieves the desired outcomes. We pride ourselves on promoting water safety and using sport as a vehicle for education and personal development for young people. This also includes coordinating with our local and international partners to ensure that our projects are carried out efficiently.

My role also involves representing the Foundation at different events, forging strategic partnerships and mobilising resources to support our actions. I make sure that the Foundation’s vision and values are reflected in everything we do, and that we remain true to our mission.

Every day in this role is an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of young people around the world, and I am excited and committed to continuing this mission in 2024, which is shaping up to be a very promising year indeed!

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Gareth Wittstock at the Water Safety Day in Calvi with the Princess Charlene Foundation © Fondation Princesse Charlène

Will we be seeing you in the field with the Foundation in the near future?

Yes, of course, and I’m particularly pleased to announce that our Water Safety Days are back in force this June! This week, we were in Corsica, on the beach at Calvi, for an event that is particularly close to our hearts. We have developed a great relationship with the town of Calvi and its inhabitants, and this year will mark the fourth edition of the Water Safety Days there. We look forward to building on these bonds and continuing to promote water safety for children.

After Calvi, we went to the town of Léon, in France, for the first time. We organised the day for the children of Léon with the help of Stéphanie Barneix, the world lifesaving champion and Foundation ambassador. Stéphanie brings invaluable expertise and a contagious enthusiasm about water safety, and we are delighted to be working with her for the new edition.

We’ll conclude the Water Safety Days in Monaco, as we do every year. Pupils from the Principality’s schools will take part in the activities on offer, this time in the company of our Monegasque ambassador, the free diving record holder Pierre Frolla, and his team at the Académie Monégasque de la Mer (Monegasque Academy of the Sea). Their commitment and expertise will make it a rewarding and safe experience for all the children taking part.

Gareth Wittstock at the Water Safety Day in Calvi with the Princess Charlene Foundation © Fondation Princesse Charlène

What do you think is the best way to raise public awareness about water safety and prevent drowning?

I believe a multi-faceted approach is the best way to educate the general public about water safety and prevent drowning.

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This includes education, with swimming lessons accessible to all, and school curricula that include water safety awareness sessions. It is important that children learn how to swim from an early age, but also that they understand the dangers of water and basic lifesaving techniques.

Awareness campaigns also play a vital role. Social media, television, radio, and posters can reach a wide audience, but the organisation of community events, such as the Water Safety Days, can directly engage local communities.

Strict regulation of bathing facilities is also essential. Swimming pools, beaches and other bathing areas must be equipped with adequate safety features.

Partnerships are another crucial aspect. Working with schools to integrate water safety programmes into the curriculum, collaborating with local businesses to secure funding and resources, and involving athlete ambassadors to promote water safety initiatives can all strengthen and expand the impact of these efforts.

You created the Riviera Water Bike Challenge, among other things. Do you have any other similar projects in the pipelne?

This year we are working on another event that is just as exciting as the Riviera Water Bike Challenge : the Crossing from Calvi to Monaco.

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This event was organised for the first time in 2020. It was an idea that my sister and I had had in mind for some time. Four years later, we are relaunching the event, which requires a lot of preparation on the part of the Foundation team and the town of Calvi, but also participating athletes, because it is a real challenge!

The challenge is to cross from Calvi to Monaco in a water bike relay, in under 24 hours. This year’s format remains the same, but we are working to expand the project, in particular with several more teams, so there will be more competition and more participants this year.

This year, as at the previous edition of the Crossing, the funds raised will go towards financing our Foundation’s projects. We’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made with the organisation and our partners’ enthusiasm when we announced the return of the event, and we hope to see a big public turnout to welcome us home when we arrive in Monaco in September!

Gareth Wittstock during the Calvi to Monaco  Crossing in 2020 © Fondation Princesse Charlène

Why combine sport and charity? Where do you get these values from?

Swimming was my first sport, and it quickly became a real passion for me. Sport is central to our family, and we were always encouraged to participate actively.

My big sister, Princess Charlene, has been a constant source of motivation and inspiration in that regard. Her dedication and love for sport have profoundly influenced my own vision and commitment. I feel it’s perfectly natural to combine sport with community work.

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Sport is a powerful tool for social change and community development. By combining our passion for sport with charitable initiatives, we are able not only to promote a healthy lifestyle, but also to have a positive impact on society. It is this belief that has guided our work within the Foundation since it was created in 2012.

Gareth Wittsotck and Princess Charlene © Fondation Princesse Charlène

It’s no secret that you are a big lover of motorsports. How do you feel about the results at this year’s F1 Grand Prix?

We are all delighted with the results at the F1 Grand Prix this year and to see our Monegasque driver, Charles Leclerc, win at home.

We have been following and encouraging Charles since he started out and he has also been a Foundation ambassador  for several years now, along with another great driver and very good friend of mine, Valtteri Bottas.

Charles’ victory at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix is not only a source of pride for the entire Principality, it also reinforces our admiration for him as an athlete and ambassador for our cause.

What sports do you practice regularly, and what goal(s) do you set for yourself?

At the moment, I am actively practicing a number of sports ever day, as preparation to take part in the Calvi to Monaco Crossing again this year.

A part of my preparation, I spend a lot of time cycling indoors, as well as at sea on the waterbike, which is always a very pleasant experience, out on the water.

On top of that, I recently discovered a passion for walking. I train daily for a possible challenge I have set for myself, and that should come to fruition over the summer. It’s a new experience for me, a real personal challenge that I have never taken on before!

Do you have any other projects lined up? On a personal, professional, sporting and entrepreneurial level?

Right now I’m very focused on my current activities, but I am always open to opportunities that may arise in the future. It’s always exciting to see what the future has in store for us, don’t you think?