When London bid to host the Games of the XXX Olympiad, one of its commitments was to put young people at the heart of the Games and inspire a generation to choose sport. One programme took an innovative approach to youth engagement.
“For young people, by young people,” is how Ian Cawley from sports education charity Youth Sport Trust (YST) describes the Young Ambassadors initiative, which was set up by YST, with support from the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), the British Olympic Foundation (BOF), British Paralympic Association (BPA), government departments and, more recently, a private sponsor: adidas.
The programme’s core activity is to develop the talents of a number of outstanding 15-19 year olds within schools around the UK. Potential Young Ambassadors are selected for their sporting talent and/ or outstanding commitment and ability as young leaders or volunteers.
Fundamental to the programme’s philosophy is the belief that young people are often much better than adults at communicating with and inspiring each other. Consequently, once they have received their training, each Young Ambassador becomes a role model for their peers.
Their three tasks are:
• To promote London 2012 in their schools and communities.
• To use the inspiration of London 2012 to increase participation in sport and physical education (PE) among their peers.
• To promote and live out the Olympic and Paralympic values: respect, friendship, personal excellence, courage, determination, inspiration and equality.
Thanks to this peer-to-peer approach, in 2012, there were 11,000 Young Ambassadors around the UK, who have encouraged many thousands more to take up sport and incorporate the Olympic values into their lives.