Young Change-Makers thrilled by Buenos Aires 2018 experience
It wasn’t just the 4,000 young athletes who enjoyed the experience of a lifetime at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires 2018; there were also 81 Young Change-Makers (YCMs) from around the world, who were tasked with a unique supporting role.
These inspirational young people were chosen by their respective National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to support the young athletes in Buenos Aires and to inspire other young people in their home communities by sharing their own experiences at the YOG.
As well as promoting the YOG and the Olympic values in their countries, the role of the YCMs was focused on helping the athletes of their national teams get the most out of their YOG experience. This included encouraging them to interact with people from different sports and backgrounds and to take part in the array of activities and workshops that were on offer.
Here, some of those chosen to participate in the YCM programme share their experiences from the YOG and what they hope to achieve next…
Babacar Dieng (Senegal)
A database administrator and IT technician by profession, sports lover Babacar is involved in many different organisations including his NOC, the National Swimming Federation, Special Olympics Senegal and the National Anti-Doping Organisation, as well as being part of the YCM+ programme for 2018.
“Our main goal was to help all of the athletes in the Youth Olympic Village have a memorable experience, discover the different education programmes available to them, and have fun. One YCM is the YCM for athletes from all sports and countries. We were there to help everyone.
“The experiences that I had at these YOG will serve me to succeed in my next project in Senegal, which will allow children in foster care to practise sport. Through activities like this, we can make our countries – and our world – better through sport.”
Maria Delgado Del Rio (Mexico)
An amateur swimmer, Maria studied at the International Olympic Academy and has volunteered at three Olympic Games. She is currently part of the social media team of the Mexican National Football team.
“I was looking after 93 loud, crazy, teenage Mexican athletes! So there was a lot to do in a little time but, after a while, they would come to me to ask me questions, or request some one-on-one time – and it filled me with joy to see the excitement in their faces. They were looking at us for an example, so we just had to smile, have fun and remember what we were there for.
“Having this opportunity has provided a big platform to help me make my dreams come true. You’re given so much information and inspiration, and I want it to be like a ripple effect, where you make an impact on someone’s life, and then that person is going to do something for somebody else.”
Nicky van Rossem (Belgium)
A former hurdler and coach, Nicky works for her NOC as a project officer in the Elite Sports Department. She was previously a research assistant for the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, and served as a YCM for the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016. She has since delivered her own YCM+ project, bringing the academic and sporting world together to inform young elite athletes about anti-doping.
“Everything I did in the Young Change-Makers programme I did as a volunteer, but it’s got me so far and always pushed me out of my comfort zone. It’s really nice that the IOC believes in you, and that they want you to speak in the name of the young athletes.”
Ty Walker (USA)
A seven-time member of the USA Snowboarding Team, Ty is a 2014 Winter Olympian in snowboard slopestyle and a World Cup gold medallist. Having recently retired from competition, she now focuses solely on her studies and is planning to pursue a career in sports medicine.
“Every day was a little different depending on what events were going on and what needed to be done. But on a typical day I would wake up, get some breakfast in the dining hall, and maybe have some Young Change-Makers meetings, where we could discuss how people were engaging in the activities in the town and ways to improve events and make sure athletes were happy with what was going on.
“Then we’d go to see some events. I got to check out a ton of sports I’ve never seen before, which was awesome. I would sit with athletes or other staff in the stands and just support the athletes. It was great to learn about what they do and see them in action.
“Then I’d come back to the Village, eat, and take some time to catch up on my own school work. Then typically at night we’d have some of the athlete educational programmes. I was just trying to get everyone engaged and involved.
“I would tell these athletes to look back on their experience after they got home. This was such a unique experience, so [they should] really give it some time and look back on the friendships they were able to make, the number of countries they were able to sit with in the dining hall, the people they went to the gym with or sung karaoke with in the Village. Really look at those things and understand how special it is to be a part of that.”
Steve Dreyfus (Switzerland)
Steve is an ice hockey referee who officiates in Switzerland and works as a Head of Team in a bank. He is also volunteering with the Organising Committee for the Winter YOG Lausanne 2020 as the ice hockey sport manager.
“As a Young Change-Maker, we needed to make athletes understand that the YOG go beyond the simple concept of performance. That this experience, perhaps unique in a lifetime, allows them to forge strong links between elite athletes, share emotions and immerse themselves together in the culture of a country.
“In 2020, I will be so happy to see them ‘at home’ [in Switzerland]. I will be responsible for organising the ice hockey competition. I have always loved Lausanne and sport. A symbol of Switzerland is the watch. And in a watch every part is essential. The external aspect is essential, but the inside, the heart of the watch, is even more important. Swiss punctuality, attention to detail and Swiss rigour will make it possible to deliver, I am sure, five-star YOG. We have everything we need to do well.”
Rania Herlina Rahardja (Singapore)
A national fencer for the past decade, Rania participated in the inaugural YOG in Singapore in 2010. She has since graduated with an LLB in Law, and is currently working in the financial services industry in London.
“As an athlete in 2010, I qualified through the host country wild card just two years after picking up fencing, and with only a year of competition experience. It was only after the Games that I actually understood what being part of the YOG meant. Whenever I met other former Youth Olympians, I was able to connect with them through this shared experience. It motivated me to continue being involved.
“Meeting the other YCMs from all over the world has inspired me greatly. Their unique backgrounds and diverse experiences – ranging from decorated athletes, including Olympic gold medallists, to local sports celebrities and the most passionate sports enthusiasts – generated a very inclusive spirit and positive vibe in the Village, making this experience very enjoyable.
“Returning to the YOG in a different capacity eight years later has also made me appreciate all the effort in the planning of the Games.”