HRH The Princess Royal paid a special visit to the Zambian Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) this week, delighting hundreds of young athletes who use the facilities.
The Centre, which was inaugurated in May 2010, is the flagship project of the IOC’s Sport for Hope Programme. The multi-purpose complex includes outdoor facilities for athletics, football, basketball, tennis, handball, volleyball and hockey, an indoor sports venue, a boxing hall, a gym, a number of classrooms and locker rooms. Sport for Hope aims to provide athletes, young people and communities in developing countries with better opportunities to practise sport and to be educated in the values of Olympism.
Princess Anne, also an IOC member, was warmly welcomed to the Centre by IOC colleague Patrick Chamunda, OYDC Director Clement Chileshe and OYDC Board members before embarking on a tour of the 14-sport structure.
The tour included a demonstration of the “Young Leaders” programme, a character-building training scheme that sees the children confront issues such as drugs, alcohol, sex and career choices, through song, dance and drama.
The Princess, an Olympian in equestrianism, also met with young athletes taking part in the female-only initiative “Grow Girls”, which encourages the participants to address the issues of sexuality, defilement, puberty and HIV/AIDS in an open manner, something not always possible in the home environment.
Of course, the visit would not be complete without seeing the athletes in action, and the Princess was treated to displays of wheelchair basketball, table tennis, tug rugby, taekwondo and judo.
Patrick Chamunda explained that the Princess Royal has been engaged in the project for some time: “Her coming here is not by accident because throughout the period of construction she has taken a keen interest in the project,” he said. “She did indicate that she was impressed in our meeting and is very supportive of the programmes here.”
OYDC Director Clement Chileshe hailed the historic visit, saying: “The coaches and athletes will forever remember this and strive for excellence. For us this was not just a royal visit, but a special visit by an IOC member who is The Princess Royal. We believe this adds value to our wonderful life-changing brand. She definitely shared our passion and love for young people.”
The Princess’s visit was one of many high profile visits to the Centre in the past months, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon having visited the OYDC early this year in the company ofIOC President Jacques Rogge.
The IOC is currently planning for the construction of a second Olympic Youth Development Centre in Haiti.