The Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Lausanne 2020 would not be possible without the 3,800 volunteers, who have helped create an incredible atmosphere in Lausanne, St Moritz and across all the venues, with their spirit of togetherness and can-do attitude.
"We have memories we will never forget – winning medals, meeting new friends, meeting athletes from other sports,” said ski mountaineering double gold medallist Thomas Bussard as he reflected on his Lausanne 2020 experience.
“Heartfelt thanks to the volunteers, too,” he added. “They were always very good to us.”
This is a sentiment that many would echo in the YOG sites all across Switzerland. The volunteers, instantly recognisable in their pink-and-blue uniform, have gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that all YOG participants and visitors leave Lausanne 2020 with memories to cherish.
Some are students, some are retired, some have taken time off work to be involved with Lausanne 2020, and some have even travelled over from other countries to perform a number of different administrative roles – from language services to accompanying athletes or supervising the cultural and sports initiation activities as part of the “En Jeux!” Festival.
Some are from Lausanne, like Elizabeth, who is working at the hugely popular ski jumping initiation activity in the Flon area, and is proud of the welcoming environment that her home city is providing.
“Lausanne offers a lot,” she says. “There are always some sporting events going on here, but the YOG make it feel even more special.
“We’ve met so many athletes, too. From Singapore, Japan, Russia [for example]… They’re all so happy, and so are we! Lausanne is [in my eyes] now really 100 per cent confirmed as the Olympic Capital.”
But it is not just in Lausanne that athletes and spectators have felt the YOG vibe. By making the most of existing facilities, the Olympic spirit has been brought to resorts like Champéry, Les Diablerets and even Les Tuffes, in France. Here, French fans have travelled in bus-loads from cities as far away as Paris to watch the biathlon action, where they are greeted by a smiling cast of volunteers mostly hailing from the local area.
Emmanuelle is a psychologist who lives in the French Jura, and has been volunteering for Lausanne 2020 in her spare time over two weekends with the security and accreditation team.
“We are a big team, all dressed in pink!” she says. “We don’t know each other; we never met before, and I like this part of the job. Meeting people and working with them, asking where they come from. It’s a fun part.
“I’ve been checking the parking lot, and it has been very pleasant to smile and talk with people from many different countries. People are very nice and interested in winter sports.”
Some volunteers have even travelled to Switzerland from other countries to sample some of the YOG spirit. Evgeny is volunteering as an administrative assistant for the Slovenian delegation, and is also lending his time to help out in the Athlete365 Awareness Zone. He has had a number of experiences volunteering at Olympic events, a love affair that began at Turin 2006, but these are his first Winter YOG.
“The YOG have a lot of spirit and are also a place of education,” he says. “The YOG give knowledge to young generations, and I’m so happy to be here because I can feel this atmosphere. Lausanne 2020 is giving me new ideas that I can take back to my country.
“I like to tell the young generations about the Olympic values, because this is very important. Each volunteer is an ambassador of the Olympic Movement.”
Lausanne 2020’s 3,800-strong team have been perfect ambassadors for the Olympic Movement. Whether it’s a smiling “bonjour” or solving complex logistical problems in super-quick time, they have maintained a happy demeanour and spirit of togetherness, and played an instrumental role in the success of an event which could not happen without them.