While the young athletes at the first ever Winter YOG are competing against each other for prized Olympic medals, they are also learning about Olympism, fair play and several other issues that go well beyond sport such as sustainability, children’s rights, first aid and humanitarian assistance.
As part of the Culture and Education Programme (CEP) in Innsbruck, international organisations including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Olympic Academy (IOA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Fair Play Committee (CIFP) have been teaching participating athletes about these important topics.
Using interactive booths set up at Congress Innsbruck, the athletes have been given the chance to learn about these topics in a fun and imaginative way – including touchscreens, games and workshops – as well as discovering how they can contribute to resolving these issues through their own actions. And the booths have already proved very popular with athletes during the Games.
“The athletes are obviously quite busy, because they’re focused on their competitions, but they are very interested in what we’re trying to teach them,” explains Flavia Pugliese of the IFRC. “They’ve been asking questions and participating in our activities.”
The IOA’s booth, which promotes Olympism and Olympic studies, has also proved particularly popular with visitors.
“The reaction has been great – it’s more than we expected,” says the IOA’s Stella Tachtara. “We have had local children, athletes, parents and coaches all coming to the booth. It’s been overwhelming.”
Dr Jen Kamuti, the President of the CIFP, has also been pleased with the response of the athletes and is a firm believer in what the CEP is trying to achieve.
“It’s important to educate these young athletes because they can use what they learn here not just in sport, but also in life,” he says. “It can therefore help general society. Sport can provide a good example for everyone.”
By using sport as a tool to educate the young athletes about these important issues, it is hoped that they will now take what they have learnt back to their own communities.
“These athletes are like role models to their peers,” explains Alexander Schwentner of UNICEF Austria. “By teaching them here, they can become agents of change and take what they have learnt back to their own countries and tell other young people.”