- 10 Sep 2010
Georgina Harland, Athlete Role Model, looks back at YOG
I was honoured to be invited to the Youth Olympic Games as an IOC Athlete Role Model and, as I packed my bag to travel to Singapore, I found myself with the same anticipation that I had felt many times before as an athlete. What would the competition hold? What adventures lay ahead? How would Singapore take on the challenge of the first ever Youth Olympic Games?
As I stepped off the plane I was immediately met by a volunteer for the YOG. Lee would be the first of many, many smiley and helpful Singaporean volunteers who would ensure the YOG were a success. Twenty thousand volunteers gave their time and enthusiasm to the event - an incredible number.
A few hours later, I arrived at the Singapore sports school, the Modern Pentathlon Venue, to take part in my first activity for the Culture and Education Programme (CEP). This programme was at the very heart of the YOG, encouraging the youth to learn, experience and be inspired by the Olympic ideals and values. Some of these activities were for the youth of Singapore, and that morning, along with the Singaporean Modern Pentathlon Federation, children from local schools had the chance to try fencing and shooting. Everyone wanted to have a go, including a brother and sister that were 5 and 6 years old. When they tried the shooting and finally managed to hit the centre of the target their faces immediately lit up with a beaming smile and the whole room cheered! My following days in Singapore would be filled with experiences like this; the young challenging themselves, trying something new and meeting new friends. A day on the ‘Island Adventure’ watching and talking to athletes from all over the world working together to build rafts, climb up huge climbing walls and engage in other activities was incredible.
At one point I found myself ‘buddying’ with a 14-year-old Ukrainian gymnast on the climbing wall. It is safe to say that I had hardly got off the ground before she had swung, flipped and gracefully climbed to the top. What really struck me throughout my time at the YOG was the athletes’ ability to adjust and work together with others to really master something new. They developed a real respect for each other. Something I was to experience again in the Youth Olympic Village (YOV) during a community music activity. Over 70 athletes came together from around the world, everyone learning how to play different instruments, before we stood on the stage to perform what could only be considered as a masterpiece! It was a real example of communicating and building relationships through means other than just words.
When I was invited to the YOG as an Athlete Role Model, it was with the idea that athletes who had been a part of the Olympics could in some way support and inspire those athletes of the future. I hope that through spending time talking to some of the athletes who were at the YOG I was able to help answer some of the many questions that they had. However, I must also say that it was an absolute privilege for me to spend time learning and understanding what is important to these young athletes. They themselves are an inspiration. Their stories of how they managed to get involved in the sport that they are so passionate about, how some have supported themselves to get to the YOG, and also their lives back home, will stay with me forever.
As the Closing Ceremony finished and I watched the athletes leave the stadium together, there was no doubt that, through their experiences at the YOG, these athletes have built a real respect for each other. They have shown true excellence in their performances, and in particular lifelong friendships have been born. The Olympic values are alive, as is the spirit of the Youth Olympic Games. Singapore must be proud of what it delivered.