Following the selection of Dakar as the host city of the 2022 Youth Olympic Games (YOG), olympic.org takes a closer look at the city to reveal some interesting facts about the Senegalese capital.
It is the westernmost city on the African mainland
Dakar, the capital and largest city of Senegal, is located on the Cap-Vert peninsula on the Atlantic coast, and is the westernmost city on the African mainland. It was first settled in the 15th century, and now has a population of approximately 1.1 million people.
Dakar is home to Africa’s tallest statue
Standing 52 metres tall, the African Renaissance Monument was unveiled in 2010 to commemorate Senegal's 50 years of independence from France. Taller than both New York City's Statue of Liberty and Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer, the bronze monument depicts a windswept man, woman and child looking out to sea, with visitors able to enjoy expansive views of Dakar by taking a lift up to an observation deck located within the man’s head.
Several famous athletes were born in Dakar
Among the well-known athletes to hail from the Senegalese capital are Premier League footballers Patrick Vieira, Patrice Evra and Idrissa Gueye; NBA players DeSagana Diop and Mamadou N'Diaye; women’s basketball stars Mame Maty Mbengue, Aya Traoré and Adama Diakhaté; and French rugby international Marc Lièvremont. Senegal’s only Olympic medallist, Amadou Dia Ba, who won silver in the 400m hurdles at the Olympic Games Seoul 1988, was also born in Dakar.
The city inspired the world’s most challenging car race
The Paris-Dakar rally, first held in late 1978, was founded after Thierry Sabine, a French motorbike racer, got lost in the Libyan desert during the 1977 Abidjan-Nice Rally and decided that the spectacular African dunescape would be perfect for an exhilarating motor race. Widely known simply as “the Dakar”, the 10,000-kilometre rally quickly became regarded as the most challenging and gruelling motor event in the world, with the Senegalese capital acting as the finishing line for almost every edition until 2007. Since then, the renowned race has moved on to South America, with the Arabian Peninsula set to host from next year.
You may find sheep on the beach
While Dakar’s beaches are becoming increasingly popular with surfers, fuelled by the cult classic 1966 documentary The Endless Summer, which was partly shot in Senegal, on Sundays you will find more sheep than surfers on the sand. On this day, it is tradition for local shepherds to take their flocks to the beach for a daylong cleansing ritual. Each week, they are led into the surf to be washed before being scrubbed and preened on the sand.
There’s a famous pink lake
Approximately 30km north-east of the city, Lake Retba (or Lac Rose) is a shallow lagoon surrounded by dunes that draws visitors on day trips from Dakar due to the vibrant pink hues that sometimes colour its waters. This surprising natural phenomenon occurs due to the lake’s unusually high salt content – 10 times higher than that of the ocean – which helps cultivate a particular type of algae that produce a red pigment.
It will be the first African city to host an Olympic competition!
By being named as the host city of the 2022 YOG, Dakar will become the first city in Africa to host a competitive Olympic event. With a large youth population, Senegal views the YOG as a catalyst for engaging young people and developing the country’s sport and youth policy. Significant investments are already being made in youth and sport as part of the country’s overarching framework “Plan Sénégal émergent”, which sets out the Senegalese President’s vision through to 2035. The competitions and activities will be held across three cities, showing the many facets of Senegal: the historic capital of Dakar; the new city of Diamniadio; and the natural beauty of Saly on the coast.