In August 2014, I took part in the second edition of the IOC Young Reporters Progamme at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Nanjing, China. Today I would like to share my experience, what I took from China and what has changed since then.
Going to Nanjing as an IOC Young Reporter was life-changing for me, but little did I know that when I entered my winning essay for the Lausanne2020 bidding committee contest. Only a few days later I got the call from Grégoire Curchod saying: “Congratulations Laura, you will be the Lausanne 2020 representative at the YOG in Nanjing.” That was when my YOG adventure started.
I went to Nanjing fresh from my year at college in the United States, wanting to experience something new after years of devoting my time to competitive swimming. I have always liked the Olympics and followed them excitedly in front of the TV; but I would lie if I said that I had much expertise in the media field. My goal, therefore, was to soak up all the new inputs and learn as much as possible from the great mentors we would have.
To cut a long story short, thanks to the experience in Nanjing I have learned what it means to work at a big multi-sports event. This included not only the journalistic aspects of covering sports, but also the little things such as always bringing the charger for your computer or your camera with you, or how to find your way to the venues on time in a context in which the Chinese volunteers were very nice, but could not speak English very well most of the time. Sometimes I felt as if I was being thrown into cold water, but that was the best way to get the most out of the experience and to learn from the mistakes I made.
Being in Nanjing at the YOG was about getting to know the Olympic world, but also about meeting new people from all around the world. In the Young Reporters Team, which consisted of 35 young media professionals, we had 24 different countries all together. We had a great atmosphere within the team, which made the cultural interchange extremely interesting and enjoyable. One of the highlights of this was the chance to work together with our photography mentor, Nick Didlick. He knew how to make us familiar with the camera and improve our shots.
More than a year has passed since I came home from Nanjing with a newly discovered passion for photography, thanks to our mentor Nick, and a backpack full of new experiences. Carrying the vivacious spirit of the YOG inside me, I went to take on new challenges. I realised very quickly that I had acquired the basics of photography in a short time, however I noticed that I still had much room to improve. Nick gave me an amazing introduction into photography in Nanjing, but then it was up to me to learn more and grow.
Over the course of the year, I have covered several smaller events, mainly swimming, to practise and gain more on-site experience. I have also started to work for a regional Swiss newspaper as a freelancer, covering different cultural and sporting events. My highlight of the year was going to the 2015 Toronto Parapan American Games to shoot for the International Paralympic Committee as a volunteer photographer.
It was the first time I had covered a big event alone, but the experience in Nanjing gave me lots of confidence for Toronto. I adapted quickly to the new circumstances, and I learned how to find my way around in the Canadian city. While I was overwhelmed at the beginning, I mastered everything pretty fast, thanks to the experience in Nanjing.
Going to the 2014 YOG has also opened another unexpected door. I am now part of the Lausanne 2020 team after the successful bid was selected at t the 128th IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur in July this year. Having the YOG in my own country is going be a great opportunity for the young people of Switzerland to get involved with Olympism. Moreover, it is a chance for the Swiss sports community to take a step forward in promoting sports in our country.
In this early stage, five years ahead of the Games, Lausanne 2020 is already carrying out initiatives which I am involved with too. In early October, for example, I went to the Universal Exposition in Milan with the Lausanne tourism office, to present the concept of the YOG in the Swiss Pavilion to around 50 Italian journalists.
I was honoured to give a speech about the YOG and their origin, as well as about the Swiss YOG project. The YOG experience in Nanjing I had lived allowed me to provide many details and interesting facts about the relatively new concept. It was much appreciated by the audience to have me as a Young Reporter and YOG “testimonial” talking about the project from my own point of view.
Moreover, I will next represent Lausanne 2020 at the Winter YOG in Lillehammer, as I was chosen to cover the Games as a photographer, as part of the second edition of the IOC YR Programme. I am looking forward to going to Lillehammer to see the fabulous winter landscapes, and I am sure that covering my first Winter Youth Olympics is going to be exciting. It is another big chance for me to improve as a professional, whilst working with a group of excellent media experts again.
It is going to be very important for me to receive new and important inputs in Lillehammer, so that I can take the best of these to improve the Lausanne 2020 project. Through my involvement with the YOG, I want to move the YOG spirit forward and enable young people to have an incredibly valuable experience as I did.
by Laura Godenzi