Engaging young people before and during the Games

As preparations for the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Lausanne 2020 gather pace, we explore how organisers are ensuring their mission statement of a Games “for young people, by young people, with young people” is successfully delivered.

When 1,880 teenage athletes from more than 80 countries arrive in Switzerland next year for the third edition of the Winter YOG, they will experience an event with youth in its DNA and a clear focus on engagement with a new generation of competitors and spectators alike.

Local organisers, for example, have followed the lead of the YOG Buenos Aires 2018 and will ensure free entry to everything but the Opening Ceremony. In doing so, local youngsters and their peers from further afield will have the opportunity to watch more events without any financial barriers.

The innovative decision to accommodate the athletes in Lausanne in two waves will mean more youngsters will have the chance to compete. Previous editions of the YOG have followed the traditional en masse approach, but splitting the 2,020 competitors into two groups, arriving and departing at different times, means more athletes can be housed. As a result, Lausanne can accommodate nearly 800 more competitors than the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016.

New sports and updated formats for existing events are another significant part of the engagement process. New sporting generations have changing tastes, and the introduction of ski mountaineering for the first time, as well as the inclusion of mixed-NOC 3×3 ice hockey, women’s luge doubles and a women’s Nordic combined event, are designed to keep the Games fresh and innovative.

Much of the organisation, vision and design of Lausanne 2020 has been shaped by young people. As an example, the Games’ mascot Yodli, the pictograms and the Look of the Games were created by students from the city’s Romande School of Arts and Communication (ERACOM). To ensure Yodli resonated with young fans, various drafts were shown to school children in Lausanne for feedback before 500 young Swiss athletes aged 12 to 18 voted on the winning design.

The Olympic cauldron, podiums and platters on which the medals will be presented have been designed by students at the State School of Arts of Lausanne (ECAL) and the State School of Construction (EDC), while ERACOM has also been involved in brand design and development.

Young academics at the Faculty of Business and Economics of the University of Lausanne have been engaged with the digital strategy for the YOG, while students at the famous Lausanne Hotel School have had input into the nutritional programme that will be on offer to the athletes.

“We want to involve young people in the preparation and organisation of the event, through partnerships with universities in the canton and all over western Switzerland,” said Ian Logan, CEO of Lausanne 2020. “Our ambition is to build a strong legacy that will serve the younger generations, the leaders of tomorrow.”

The emphasis on youth began even before Lausanne was officially confirmed as host city when the Applicant City established a Youth Council in May 2015 consisting of young Swiss athletes, students and young professionals.

Charged with helping to ensure the YOG catered for a young audience, the Council was split into two groups: the young council, involved as the jury of the official L2020 song developed by the music school HEMU; and the athletes’ council, which gives feedback on the experience that L2020 wants to give to young athletes and shares its Olympic experience with pupils.

The engagement of schools has also been very high in the canton of Vaud, as 70 per cent of them have been involved in one way or another in the Youth Olympic Games already, meaning 130,000 kids.

As an example, Lausanne’s next generation of potential broadcasters will have the opportunity to get involved in the YOG, as pupils of some of these Vaud schools are in charge of a live radio show that will go out before and during the Games.