Philippe Leuba: “Welcome home”
Councillor of State Philippe Leuba is the head of the Canton of Vaud’s Department for Economic Development, Innovation and Sport. The man who led the City of Lausanne’s Olympic bid, he hails both the decision to stage the Youth Olympic Games in the Olympic Capital and the unique nature of the project: a Winter Youth Olympic Games edition co-hosted by his canton and the French department of Jura, with the two joining forces in preparation for the big event in January 2020.
What does it mean to you to be organising the first co-hosted Olympic Games?
Along with our French friends, we’ve been able to pool the attributes and infrastructure of the two countries in the interest of sustainable development and responsible investment. These are the very first co-hosted Olympic Games, and we see ourselves as pioneers. We believe that others will take inspiration from what we’re doing and pool pre-existing infrastructure with a view to limiting the investment needed to host the Olympics.
Lausanne 2020 will be held at eight sites. What can you tell us about them?
All the sites in the Swiss Jura, the French Jura, Lausanne, the Vaud Alps, Champéry in Valais and St Moritz in Grisons are now in the final phase of completion. We are on schedule and on budget, which are two vital factors. And everything will be ready: the first stage for winter 2018/19 and the rest by late 2019. Work is progressing well and we are full of confidence.
What are the YOG going to do for the profile of the cross-border region?
The Winter YOG Lausanne 2020 will lead to a whole series of winter sports resorts getting the Olympic “seal of approval”, which will encourage more people to take up winter sports and help inculcate the Olympic values in the young people of Switzerland and France, and in those who will travel from all over the world to Lausanne in 2020. This is really important, because legacy is a major concern of ours, in a spiritual sense too, as are youth development, generating passion at grassroots level, spreading the message about Olympic ethics, and safeguarding that legacy. We’ll be providing the region with infrastructure that will encourage people to take up sport.
Lausanne, the Olympic Capital, is set to become an Olympic host city.
“Welcome Home”, if I can put it that way. I am delighted the Games are coming to the Olympic Capital. Vaud is home to 57 International Sports Federations, so it’s unlike anywhere else in the world. We are thrilled to see international sports administration in tune with sport itself, as will be the case at the YOG 2020.
How is the Canton of Vaud getting involved?
The Canton of Vaud and the City of Lausanne are heading up the project. The two joined forces in putting the bid together and submitting it, and have pooled their energy in what is a wonderful project. We can see the passion among young people and students, who have designed the mascot and a whole range of materials for these YOG. There’s a real sense of excitement in the air, which is really gratifying, and there’s a lot of enthusiasm at sports clubs and among young people. It’s fantastic. Our goal is to instil the Olympic values in youngsters in Vaud and Switzerland as a whole.
Can these YOG overcome Switzerland’s cultural differences?
Sport brings people together. It generates a real sense of communion, no matter whether you’re Swiss-German, Swiss-French or Swiss-Italian, whether you’re Catholic or Protestant, or whether you live in the mountains or a city. We said to ourselves we had to bring that feeling – and that willingness to share – to our country, to inspire our youngsters to become sportspeople, to make the most of what sport has to offer in terms of enabling people to build their futures. The excitement of sport, the cohesion of a country and an education that is focused on future generations: these are the things that led us to say, “Why can’t we do that? Why don’t we put together a bid that pursues that goal?” The IOC has done so much for Switzerland in terms of raising its profile, and we want to pay back what it has given us.