PANCHO CAMPO – Creating change for the future planet

in Features

Born in Chile, Pancho Campo was a talented tennis player in his youth. “I wish I had been more talented, that’s why I did not climb in the ATP rankings, but I became a very successful coach,” he explains. Pancho was Captain of the Chilean Olympic Team in Barcelona 1992, then travelled the ATP Tour for a couple of years, working for the Academy with students such as Andrea Agassi and Pete Sampras. 

“It was whilst I was coaching on the Tour that I was hired by the Government of Qatar to be their tennis director and their Davis Cup coach,” Pancho states, going on to add that he was very honoured to be the coach of the current Emir and the President of the Paris Saint-Germain football team.

Pancho Campo is a man who has managed to combine his passions in life with his business life. “My role model has always been Richard Branson, and like Richard Branson I have tried to turn all my passions into business – so therefore sports, music, wine and lately in the last ten years the environment.”

When he retired from tennis about thirteen years ago, Pancho created his own events management company. “By default we started organising tennis exhibitions and tournaments with the likes of Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg, Andre Agassi and Emilio Sánchez Vicario, but eventually we moved into organising music concerts with artists such as Sting, Pink Floyd, Tom Jones and the Gypsy Kings.”

“Music was always a big part of my life and it was always a dream of mine to be able to organise a concert, so our first concert was in the year 2000 with Enrique Iglesias when he was number one in the charts, and that went so well that we continued organising events for many years,” Pancho says. 

Admitting that there are still things he can’t do in this life, Pancho says that he is terrible at playing an instrument or soccer. “If you ask me what my number one asset is, it is event management. I am a good organiser whether that is a concert, a conference or a sporting event.”

At an age when many people think about retiring, Pancho decided to something meaningful. “I have been very lucky in life and that is what led me to create the Planet Future Foundation as a legacy to my kids, but also you have got to be thankful and when life has treated you well I think it is nice to give back to society,” says Pancho.

It was in 2003 when he started taking climate change seriously. “I love snow skiing and I started listening to people complaining that the quality of the snow was not the same any more, that the seasons were different – sometimes shorter, sometimes longer,” he explains. 

In those days it was called global warming and at the same time Pancho was preparing to become a Master of Wine. It was in 2006 when he realised there was a direct link between wine and the changing climate and this led to him to organise an international conference on climate change and wine. “It was a crazy idea,” he laughs. “A big flop, because in those days nobody spoke about climate change.” Only about 80 people showed up to what Pancho hoped would be a 200-person event, however two very good things did come out of it. Many of those who attended were journalists from international media outlets like National Geographic, the BBC and the wine media who “were all very curious to know who the crazy guy was talking about climate change and the wine industry,” Pancho jokes. The second important thing is that two months after the event Pancho got a phone call from the office of Vice President Al Gore inviting him to attend a two-day training in Seville for climate change leaders. “I told him everything that we had learnt about climate change and wine in our first conference and I convinced him to be my key note speaker at the next edition.” Eighteen months later VP Al Gore had released the documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ – he won an Oscar, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and won Spain’s prestigious Prince of Asturias Award. “So when he showed up in Barcelona he was probably the most famous human being on earth at the time.”

“The conference that had started out with just eighty delegates on the first edition then went up to eight hundred people coming from more than seventy countries in just two years – all the big names of the wine industry were there, and that allowed us to recover what we had lost in the first edition, but it also gave use the encouragement to continue doing this.” In future editions as well as VP Al Gore who came to five of the events, Pancho welcomed Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and in 2018 he managed to convince US president Barack Obama to be the key note speaker at an event in Porto, Portugal.

It was during the pandemic lockdown period that Pancho managed to put together everything that was required to set up the Planet Future Foundation, an NGO registered in Miami. “It is a fully non-profit organisation with the main goal being to create awareness of the impacts of the climate crisis, the damage we are doing to the environment and to show the solutions available. We are doing this through expeditions and trips we started organizing early this year to enable us to gather data and record documentaries,” explains Pancho. 

The first fund raiser that Pancho is putting together is an event in Gibraltar on 16th March at The Sunborn called Exploring the Climate Crisis. “We are going to show some footage that we have recorded in Greenland, in the Caribbean and in Florida about how climate change has impacted different parts of the world and how we are all connected, and then we are going to have a panel with local experts including Minister John Cortes, Lewis Stagnetto from the Nautilus Project and Dr Keith Bensusan from the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens.”

This will be followed by a Charity Wine Gala Dinner with wines provided by a winery that is involved with environmental issues where each wine will be presented by a representative of the winery trying to explain to the audience what the relationship is between wine and climate change.

The most important message that Pancho wants to get across is to “vote for leaders who have a climate program compatible with our ideas.” This is particularly important when addressing young people who are going to vote for the first time. “Don’t vote for the person that is better looking, don’t vote because your pal is voting for that candidate or your family has voted for them, read their program and it has to be compatible with your beliefs.”

Pancho concludes by saying that once you elect a politician, a business leader or a community leader, you have to make them accountable. “It is your right as a citizen and your obligation to question your leaders if they are not doing what they promised to do and if we start choosing the right leaders that care about the issues that are important to us then we can start seeing some change.”

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