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22 Dec 2010

El Guerrouj: "I'm confident in the dreams of young people"

Alan Harris, Singapore 2010 young reporter from Barbados, reports from Durban

In order for the world's young people to thrive in academic, social and sporting arenas, emphasis must be placed on providing them with the appropriate opportunities for success. So says two-time Olympic gold medallist and undisputed “King of the Mile”, Hicham El Guerrouj.

He was speaking recently at the 7th World Conference on Sport, Education and Culture in Durban, South Africa. Organised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in partnership with UNESCO, the conference was designed to “Give Youth a Voice”.
"I grew up in a small town in Morocco and nobody understood sport and the opportunities it brought about", said El Guerrouj, the current world-record holder of the 1500m, Mile and outdoor 2000m.

"Many of my friends didn't believe that I could become an Olympic champion. In the beginning, I didn't believe it myself, but I knew that if I succeeded it would give me a better life".

And what a better life sport brings about indeed. Now a member of the International Olympic Committee's Athletes' Commission, the 36 year-old's sporting career has been marked by numerous recognitions. High on the list of his accolades is the humanitarian effort award from the International Association of Athletics Federations(IAAF), which he received in 1996. To top it all off, the soft-spoken Moroccan is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, a perfect role for someone so enthusiastic about seeing other people succeed.

"To give a voice to the young people of the world is very important. I think the Olympic Movement has done well to afford young people the opportunity to share their opinion here in Durban. We need to think about the ways in which we can introduce sport, education and culture to the young people of the world. It is essential".

The four-time world champion also thought it important to blend the thoughts and opinions of both young and old for the common good of all. "It may be a little bit difficult at first, but we need to mix the opinions of the young and the old", he said.

"It is important that people such as myself come back to speak to young people with the hope of inspiring them. We, my generation, need to think about ways to inspire not only young people, but their parents and grandparents as well. Today I am happy to be an ambassador for my sport. We now need the leaders of the world to make the big decisions; decisions about how we can give the children of the world the chances they deserve. "I'm very confident in the abilities and dreams of young people".

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