Last week, we caught up with the Head of the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (LYOGOC), Tomas Holmestad, during his visit to the International Olympic Committee’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Relaxed, full of enthusiasm and ready for the challenge, the young director and dad of two took the time to tell us a bit about what our YOG fans, athletes and volunteers can expect at the second Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2016.
“We are an event for, with and by young people,” enthused Tomas, emphasising that YOG fans and athletes can expect “a wonderful ten days” in a welcoming city eager to host a great event “with youth at the heart of it”. The 32-year-old Lillehammer native added: “Lillehammer is a fantastic city to host the YOG because it is so compact and so proud of its Olympic heritage [in reference to it hosting the Olympic Winter Games in 1994] and the venues are very well-suited to young athletes.”
The Opening Ceremony of the next Winter YOG is scheduled for 12 February 2016, exactly 22 years after the Olympic Winter Games in 1994 opened, and Tomas was happy to reminisce on that first Olympic experience: “I was in school back then, and all school kids had three weeks’ vacation, so I remember thinking that was very cool!” admitted the winter sports fan with humour. “I attended many events; I was only 13, but I, along with everyone else in Lillehammer, remember what they did or where they were during the 1994 Games.”
With still three years to go, the head of the LYOGOC - who was proudly wearing the Lillehammer 2016 vision, ‘Go beyond… Create tomorrow’, emblazoned across his t-shirt – recognises that the journey will be both exciting and challenging. “People in Lillehammer know the Olympics; we now have to educate everybody about the Youth Olympic Games,” he explained. “But we also want to use the YOG as a tool to encourage youth sport across Norway.”
To conclude our meeting with Tomas, we asked him one last very important question: Who would he be if he could be an Olympian? Without hesitation, the Norwegian revealed: “It would have to be Edvald Boasson Hagen [Norway’s rising cycling star, six-time National Time Trial Champion and two-time Olympian]”.