"A magnificent sports festival in the heart of the Olympic Capital"
The concept of the Youth Olympic Games is still young and is therefore constantly evolving. What type of a partner is Lausanne 2020 for the IOC in this "co-construction" of the event, particularly with regard to the IOC's new approach to seeing the Games adapt to cities and not the other way around?
Antoine Goetschy, Head of Youth Games at the International Olympic Committee: Lausanne 2020 is an integral part of our evolution process. This was one of the aims of the project from the outset: to be an incubator for new ideas for the organisation of sporting events, thanks to the high level of academic and sporting skills that exist here. As far as we are concerned, this open-mindedness has enabled us to introduce the fundamental innovation known as the "two waves", which you have already mentioned here, and which consists of welcoming athletes in two successive groups. This will allow us to welcome more young people, and thus to further increase the level of competition, in a full gender parity. Besides, all of this will have no additional costs for the organizer. If this goes well, then Lausanne 2020 will be an important starting point for this new approach.
We will also test the concept of organising some activities for athletes at the sites. A flexible working approach goes in both directions: we have adapted to Switzerland's "federal" reality, with a decentralisation of responsibilities that allows the regions to take ownership of the YOG and make it their own event. The relocation of speed skating events to a lake in St Moritz, near the Bobsleigh, Skeleton and Luge track, is another example of adaptation to existing options in Switzerland. We are therefore in a real co-construction process, which results in benefiting both parties.
One of the promises made by Lausanne 2020 is to show to the world's young athletes that this region can be a "beginning" for them, not only in practicing sports, but also in learning life values of Olympism and of sport in general. With just under two years before the start of the games, how do you see this vision taking shape?
Antoine Goetschy: It is already extremely visible. For example, dozens of students collaborate every day to build the event through working on the design of the mascot and other visual elements, certain operational concepts, athletes’ experience and so on. Collaborations with schools and universities are very well established. The Organising Committee, headed by its CEO Ian Logan, is also young. Its team members learn something every day, and these skills will be very useful to them for the rest of their careers. The city of Lausanne does a lot for young people, at the sporting and cultural level, so it is a perfect match for the Youth Olympic Games. For all these young people, Lausanne 2020 will be a real start. At the IOC, we want the Youth Olympic Games to be "Games for young people by young people" – this is the message that we advocate with all our host cities, and Lausanne has understood this extremely well. Now, we want to ensure that this spirit is spread to the rest of Switzerland with the encouragement from the Cantons and Swiss Olympic, who are working very hard on it. There is still a big year to go, nonetheless, we are confident that Lausanne 2020 is on the right track.
You like to promote the idea that the Youth Games should be a real sports festival. Can you tell us in a few words how you are developing this idea, for 2020 and beyond?
Antoine Goetschy: We want to offer local athletes and youth a complete experience, which has sport competition at its heart, but which also goes far beyond that in an atmosphere similar to that of a festival. Athletes and spectators must be able to move from competition to culture through more educational aspects, all in the same day. See a competition, attend a concert, try out a sport, learn how to take care of your body by doing sports, and share a meal with friends or people from elsewhere. That's what a sports festival is. We return to an original idea of Pierre de Coubertin who saw the Games as a holistic celebration of sport and its values. Doing this therefore has an impact on the very organisation of the event, in terms of ticketing and access. The event must not be compartmentalised as it has been the case in the past. It must be open, friendly and with a spirit of sharing throughout. The 3rd Summer Youth Olympic Games, which will be held from 6 to 18 October in Buenos Aires (Argentina), will be a great example of this, while the Lausanne 2020 project, in collaboration with all the cities, villages and resorts hosting competitions and developing activity programmes, is very promising. A magnificent sports festival in the heart of the Olympic Capital. What could be better?