Assisted by the country’s Olympians, over 500 children aged 10 to 12 were able to learn about and practise numerous sports in the Kosevo Olympic Stadium in Sarajevo to celebrate Olympic Day.
Every year, Olympic Day, officially celebrated on 23 June, sparks a wave of activities and sporting, cultural and educational events across the world. Many National Olympic Committees (NOCs), however, such as that of Bosnia and Herzegovina, do not wait until 23 June to get moving.
“We set up [at the Olympic Stadium in Sarajevo] the facilities to practise 10 Olympic sports [or disciplines]: javelin, table tennis, hurdles, badminton, judo, archery, shooting, shot put, beach volleyball and football,” said Bojan Zeleznik, Project Director at the NOC of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“For each sport, Olympians from our country who have competed at the Summer or Winter Games were there to guide the children, introduce them to their discipline, and encourage them to practise it.” They were also available to speak to them about their clubs and encourage new vocations, because, as Zeleznik explained: “Football is the most popular sport for us, so there is no problem finding a club or playing it, but for other sports, it’s more complicated. The children were thus able to find out where to sign up to take up the discipline of their choice.”
These youngsters benefited from the teaching of the best athletes in the country, and I’m sure that they will continue. All of this shows the impact of Olympic Day.Bojan Zeleznik
The Olympians, including sports shooter Nedzad Fazlija, who competed at five Summer Games and in 2000 achieved Bosnia and Herzegovina’s best result, finishing in 6th place in the 10m air rifle final, and YOG Singapore 2010 tennis bronze medallist Damir Dzumhur, expressed their delight at passing on their know-how and answering questions, hoping that the youngsters “might one day compete at the Olympic Games, and turn out to be better than [them]”.
Passing on the values of sport
The upshot of the races? “The children loved it,” declared the organiser. “There was a 100m sprint, but also a big race where over 400 of them followed the Olympians. They tried out the hurdles; and in some disciplines, such as table tennis, they didn’t want to stop!”
He added: “Judo, badminton and archery were also very popular. These youngsters benefited from the teaching of the best athletes in the country, and I’m sure that they will continue. All of this shows the impact of Olympic Day.”
Safety was also one of the main objectives for the NOC. The Project Director told us: “For disciplines such as shooting or archery, there is preparation time: how do you warm up? How do you prepare the bow or gun? What precautions should you take? For judo, our champions first introduced their discipline and spoke about its values, respect for your opponent and sport in general. The children were then able to try out some easy exercises. The message was: “You may not necessarily be the best, but you will get better and better.”
Stars in the eyes of the young participants, and the Olympians’ delight at passing on their knowledge – everything came together to make this Olympic Day a great success. “We have organised this event every year since 2013,” concluded Zeleznik. “We are assisted by the sports students from Sarajevo, who bring the equipment and take part in the coaching, and this event has taken on great importance in our city.”