Football legend visits Zambia’s Olympic Youth Development Centre
With the 2014 Nanjing Summer Youth Olympic Games a day away, it’s a good opportunity to highlight another International Olympic Committee (IOC) initiative in youth development and community sport.
The Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) in Lusaka, Zambia, was recently visited by retired international British football player John Barnes prior to the opening of a second Centre in Haiti last month.
Accompanied by the President of Zambia’s Football Association, Kalusha Bwalya, the sportsman was at the OYDC to conduct coaching clinics and meet those who are benefitting from this state-of-the-art complex, including the national under-17 football team.
Providing athletes, young people and local African communities with opportunities to practise sport and learn about the Olympics values, this multi-sport complex is home to over 16 different sports disciplines.
“I am impressed with what you are doing,” Barnes told a crowd gathered at the centre. “This centre is one that is really addressing the needs of any child out there.”
Speaking to players and coaches, the British footballer urged them to have passion and dedication for their sport, as well as work on being strong mentally and physically to be best prepared for their role as national athletes and rising stars.
For the Director of the OYDC, Clement Chileshe, such high-profile visits are a unique opportunity to motivate the hundreds of local children who visit the centre every day.
In addition, the OYDC has proudly trained a young national hockey team, who will represent Zambia at the Youth Olympic Games taking place in Nanjing, China, from 16 to 28 August. A first for the country and for the OYDC, Chileshe sees this as an invaluable occasion to raise the profile of the multi-sport complex and provide a further incentive for investing in youth development programmes.
Hope and development through sport
The OYDC in Zambia has grown considerably since it first opened its doors in 2010. Welcoming on average 10,000 youngsters on a regular basis, the centre was launched four years ago by the IOC with the support of the Olympic Movement. It now has an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a health centre. In all, the facility offers training opportunities for 16 different sports, with an emphasis on basketball, boxing, judo, hockey, track & field, table tennis and swimming. It is also the training ground for a number of high-performance athletes who hope to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
In the four years of operations, more than 100 young athletes who had not practised sport before have since been integrated into national teams. The multi-sport centre also offers a wide range of educational programmes, health services and community activities aimed at improving the quality of life in a country ravaged by HIV/AIDS, poverty, crime and unemployment.
Building on success
Under the auspices of the IOC, and following the success of the Zambian Centre, a second multi-sport complex was opened in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, by the IOC President and the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Serving the local community and elite athletes, it will include sporting venues as well as healthcare and educational programmes and administrative facilities.