The first Culture and Education Programme at these inaugural Youth Games is taking athletes away from the sporting venues to study environmental issues and water conservation, talk to mentors and learn about nutrition and health, networking and career planning.
Patrick Stalder (SUI), the IOC official in charge of the programme, said: “It is widening their horizon on social responsibility. Some will become role models and have a chance to impact on their community – and share the Olympic spirit.”
Stalder told the Youth Olympic Games News Service that young athletes needed to prepare well for careers in sport.
Coaches and National Olympic Committee members had become enthusiastic supporters of the programme because they could see how it might improve their athletes, the IOC head of creative services, culture and education for the Youth Olympic Games said in an exclusive interview.
“We really believe it creates a better life for the athletes by sharing experiences and meeting other people,” Stalder said. “The Games is about competition for sure, but when you share another culture you become a better person in yourself.”
The programme offers about 50 learning events across Singapore. “Each athlete picks up what’s useful to him or her,” Stalder said. “We don’t intend that everyone comes out with the same understanding of everything on offer; that’s not realistic.
“This programme offers a set of opportunities and then it’s up to the athlete to choose what will enrich their life.”
Stalder said many other young people as well as the athletes were starting to benefit: volunteers and Singapore schoolchildren for example.
Programme organisers were testing ways to webcast events from the Youth Olympic Village, such as ‘Chat with Champions’ sessions and musical events, to spread the educational experience beyond Singapore 2010.
Irish Olympic CEO Stephen Martin said that ” whilst the prime focus is on competition at the games the athletes can use some of their downtime to engage in Cultural and Educationa programmes, and become more fully engaged once their competition is over”