One year on from the 3rd Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG), olympic.org speaks with Lausanne 2020 Organising Committee President Virginie Faivre about the success of the Games and the lasting legacies she hopes they will create.
One year on from Lausanne 2020, how do you look back on the Winter YOG, which ended up being one of the only major sporting events to be held in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic?
“We were really lucky with the timing and to be able to host the YOG in Lausanne before everything that happened. First, we're really appreciative and grateful that we could hold the Games because they were such a success and we had many people, more than 640,000, who came to see the Games. Today, that's something that seems surreal. The Games were successful in many aspects and, for us, the most important [thing] was to have all those people come together to celebrate sport, youth and the Olympic values when we know what the world is going through now. It's really a reminder of better days to come I think for the future.”
Personally, what are some of your most treasured memories from the Games?
“Well, that's a tough one because I have many amazing memories from the Games. But in my mind, there are two moments. The first one is symbolic: it was during the Opening Ceremony when the youngest athlete of the Swiss team [Gina Zehnder] lit the cauldron. The moment is suspended in time; it marks the beginning of the Games, the moment we've been dreaming, working and waiting for all those years and months. That moment is truly a symbolic launch of the Games for the athletes and for the people.
If I can think of another memory, [it was] definitely the evening of day one at the medal ceremony. It was packed with 3,000 people who came to celebrate the athletes and the first medal of the Games. I was lucky to take part in the first medal ceremony, where two young Swiss girls from my region won gold and silver. We couldn't have dreamt of a better scenario or a better start for our Games. The crowd was on fire; everyone sees these stars in the eyes of the kids, lights, cow bells ringing all over the place and that night we heard the Swiss national anthem three times. It was really emotional and just talking about it gives me shivers.”
Did you know from that moment on the first evening that the Games were going to be a success?
“Yes. I think that's when we realised that the population wanted to take part in these Games. I think it even exceeded our expectations. They brought people together – young, old, parents, the friends of the children. They all came not only because they wanted to see big stars, but they wanted to celebrate with the sporting youth of the world, and that was amazing.”
Do you wish that the YOG had been around when you were a young athlete?
“Definitely. It’s such a great event. It brings more than just an international competition, which is really important to gain experience from that pure sports point of view, and also off the field of play. It's about what we could provide, to give tools to these athletes, to grow faster and learn. And at my age, at that time, I had to learn by myself. And I think it's a great opportunity for them to be able to have all those workshops and to talk with established stars and learn from them. That's what makes the YOG even stronger for the future of a career.”
How different was it for you to be working within the Organising Committee at a Games, rather than competing as an athlete?
“It was definitely different, but you can also bring the experience of what you learned as an athlete, because there's the pressure to be ready, to deliver an event. And it's the same as an athlete; you have those milestones and you need to be ready for the big day. The big difference for me was that I came from an individual sport, and it was really amazing to see the team effort and the really strong commitment from the Organising Committee. We were a small team, but that small team went beyond expectations to deliver amazing Games.”
What impact do you think hosting the YOG has already had on Lausanne and Switzerland as a whole?
“For us, we were proud because we could deliver what we wanted to do from the very beginning since the day when hosting the Games was just an idea. We wanted to show to the world an aspect of Switzerland that people don’t know; that we are a country that trusts and invests in youth, a country of education and innovation, and a country of sports. Building all those projects together with the local schools was really one of the main goals – to develop all those talents and to be able to bring an expertise to the younger, talented people, that they could also benefit from the Games and use that platform to express their talent.”
How do you think Lausanne 2020 will influence future editions of the YOG?
“In Lausanne, the Games adapted to the region – not the other way around. And I think this is at the heart of the IOC’s ‘New Norm’. We provided an example of what that means in reality, and that is what we brought to the Olympic Movement. Now there's Paris, and Milan-Cortina – they're using us as an example of how to engage the youth and involve them in the making of the Games. Also, how we used existing solutions, such as public transport. With the help of the IOC, who trusted our ideas, it was really wonderful to be able to bring something different.”
How do you hope people will reflect on Lausanne 2020 in the years to come?
“I just hope that thinking about the YOG again will bring a smile to their faces. One year on, people still come to me, or send me messages, about how they had a wonderful time and how much they appreciated those precious moments. And all those little seeds have been planted, I think most importantly, in the kids, who came in their thousands to watch the Games and left with stars in their eyes. I really hope that that will bring many opportunities for them in the future. Definitely, that's what I hope will stay forever.”