On 12 August, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is celebrating International Youth Day, established under the auspices of the United Nations
Observed the world over, International Youth Day recognises the important role that young people play in conflict prevention, as agents of change and in inclusive and sustainable societies.
Young people are at the heart of the activities and initiatives developed by the IOC, particularly those deriving from the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) and through which, throughout the year, many young people contribute to making the world better and more peaceful place, using sport and the dissemination of the Olympic values.
For example, Colombia’s Juan Sanchez, a Young Change-Maker from Nanjing 2014, offers youngsters aged 9 to 14, who are vulnerable to crime and drug trafficking in disadvantaged areas in the country, two-day sports courses to introduce them to sports disciplines and show them that the best choices in life are possible and accessible thanks to sport and its values. Similarly, adapting the context to her own country, Guatemala’s Gabriela Matus, who was also a Young Change-Maker at Nanjing 2014, and is a member of the Young Global Shaper Community of the World Economic Forum, has set up a sports programme, featuring workshops, on healthy eating and lifestyles for young people in disadvantaged communities.
Drivers of hope and change, they have both benefited from the support of the IOC in implementing their projects in the framework of the Young Change-Makers+ programme, an IOC social-entrepreneurship-through-sport initiative supported by Worldwide Olympic Partner Panasonic.
In Asia, Chinese Taipei weightlifter Hsing-Chun Kuo (silver medallist at the YOG Singapore 2010 and bronze medallist at Rio 2016) used half of her earnings from the 2013 World Championships to fund an ambulance for a hospital. In her opinion: “Giving back is the best way to show gratitude.” It was for this reason that she founded the “Lift up your Life” association, which collects funds through the sale of T-shirts for a school sports development fund.
In the sporting arena, young people can also learn to get to know and trust each other, and thus become agents of change. At the Youth Olympic Games, several events were staged for teams made up of the best athletes in their age category from various countries, encouraging interaction and sharing in order to overcome prejudices. This was the case, for example, at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016, where young figure skaters from Russia, China and the USA formed a team that competed for a medal; or at the Summer YOG Nanjing 2014, where young Israeli and Turkish archers came together for a mixed team competition.
The athletes go back to their communities with many great memories, but also with a new view of the world.
Created by and for young people, the YOG allow local teens and students to get involved in their organisation. They are thus a source of inspiration to breathe change into their community. Norway’s Alexander Eriksson used his experience at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016 to become a driving force in engaging young people in sport. For International Youth Day, he declared: “By practising sport, you gain a better understanding of other people’s values, interests and motivation. This understanding helps me help others regardless of their beliefs, and drive them to achieve something that pushes society forward.”
You can also become a driver of change, and share your initiatives, projects and activities in your sports club, community, school, youth club or workplace on social networks with the hashtags #YouthDay and #Youth4Peace.
The YCM+ Programme supported by Panasonic is a social entrepreneurship through sport initiative. YCM applicants can submit a project to the IOC, using sport for a better world in their community, and the best projects are allocated a maximum of CHF 5,000 of seed funding. Themes cover Healthy & Active Living, Inclusion, Sustainability, and Peace & Development.