The new wave of Young Change-Makers (formerly Young Ambassadors) appointed for the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 hit the ground running last month as they were set the task to volunteer in their communities; and they delivered! From Slovakia to Suriname, Pakistan to Panama, the YCMs threw themselves into the challenge giving up their time to support their local clubs to marshal at sports events and to pass on their experience to the younger generation.
Our YCM in Norway, Runa Moller Tangstad, endured icy artic winds to provide support to competitors at an international dog-sled race; and over the other side of the world in Uruguay, Ines Remersaro Coronel pulled an "all-nighter" to help her local sports club organise a unique pre-season training camp, which saw athletes from various sports - basketball, volleyball, field hockey, tennis, swimming, synchronized swimming and waterpolo - assigned to teams and working together to complete a six-hour nocturnal obstacle course.
Elsewhere, in Turkey, Murat Madan joined an organisation helping disabled children improve their motor skills; and in Senegal Babacar Djileh Dieng used his experience as a swimming coach to support a nationwide programme helping to prevent infant drowning by teaching children swim. In Azerbaijan, Sakina Valiyeva took a different approach, employing her social media skills to support the BMX World Championships in Baku by managing their various platforms.
Meanwhile, two of the professional athletes in our ranks, Slovakia's Alexandra Longova – who competed at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 in archery – and Zimbabwe's Yara Hansen – an equestrian athlete who took bronze in the team jumping event at the Youth Olympic Games Singapore 2010 – imparted their knowledge to the younger generation through two initiatives in their communities. Alexandra volunteered to work with a school outreach programme introducing students to archery where she passed on some of her tips from the top; while Yara attended a triathlon meet and spoke to four potential YOG athletes about her experience, their training programmes, what drives them and what the Olympic values mean to her.
Yara said: "It was a great opportunity to meet some of the youth athletes and see what drives and inspires them. Next, I would like to organise an event where young athletes from different sports can meet and interact with one another ahead of the Games to share how their training is coming on and to talk about difficulties they may be facing."
And finally, we all know sport and culture go hand in hand, especially at the YOG where a festival atmosphere is encouraged, so we were delighted to see YCMs volunteering in the arts as well. Lenka Rudoka volunteered as a lighting technician for a local theatre company in the Czech Republic; while in Serbia, Mirjana Ivkovic helped organised a poetry evening for a young poet in collaboration with a youth organisation helping instil confidence in young people through the arts.
Nominated by their respective National Olympic Committees, the 80 Young Change-Makers selected for the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 are all driven young people keen to leverage sport to make a difference in their community. The YCMs will support the YOG athletes on their journey to the Games and will encourage them to get the most out of their experience and to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the culture exchanges and the Athlete Education Programme.