A special day of sport in Lausanne
On the eve of the inauguration of Olympic House and the celebrations to mark the 125th anniversary of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), a number of events took place in Lausanne today, setting the tone for a very busy and sporty weekend.
Vidy gets a new look
Together with the Mayor of Lausanne, Grégoire Junod, and representatives of the local authorities, the IOC President, Thomas Bach, officially inaugurated a new playground located in front of Olympic House. It was important for the IOC to contribute to the reconstruction of the playground after the original play area was dismantled to accommodate the water pipe coming from the lake to cool and heat the new building.
Located inside the busy Louis Bourget public park, Olympic House was always meant to fit into its environmental and historic setting and integrate with the local population, hence reaffirming the IOC's attachment to Lausanne. Jointly financed by the IOC and the City of Lausanne, the new playground, designed around the theme of "Birds of the Lake", offers a wide range of fun games, including five wooden birds that feature climbing walls.
In parallel, the nearby "Place de Granit" granite fountain, which was produced for the Swiss National Exposition in 1964 by Bernard Schorderet, has been fully renovated. In addition, the area around Olympic House has also been developed, with the planting of 103 large trees (oak, maple and hornbeam trees, to mention only a few) and 90 shrubs. In total, 193 plants, all native to Switzerland, have been added to increase the vegetation at the site.
Olympic House point of interest
The inauguration of the playground was followed by the presentation of the Olympic House point of interest by IOC President Thomas Bach and Mayor of Lausanne Grégoire Junod. Recognisable by the marble arch that was part of the former IOC building, the point of interest is set to become a new tourist attraction and the starting point of a promenade along Lake Geneva leading to The Olympic Museum.
This ceremony marked the kick-off of the Olympic Capital Run, which this year attracted over 2,000 participants accompanied by internationally famous Olympic medallists and Olympians. In Lausanne to attend the celebrations marking the 125th anniversary of the IOC, some of these athletes also decided to get active with local clubs during the course of the day.
Tennis with Fernando Gonzalez and Gabriela Sabatini
A group of some 30 kids warmly welcomed Olympic champion Fernando Gonzalez and Olympic silver medallist Gabriela Sabatini on the central court of the Stade-Lausanne Tennis Club. All of them had the opportunity to play with the champions and benefit from their kind advice.
"It's a great atmosphere," said Gabriela at the end of the session. "I love being around kids and seeing how much fun they are having. We have the possibility to play with them and offer them some advice; it is fantastic for us also. The kids were playing really good tennis, and you can tell that some of them are really competitive and ready for competition I think," she added.
Field hockey with Luciana Aymar
Four-time Olympic medallist Luciana Aymar, from Argentina, was a very welcome special addition to the regular Saturday morning practice sessions for the girls and boys of the Stade-Lausanne hockey club. Before receiving training instructions on the field from one of the most skilful and decorated players of the sport, they were advised by her to train hard and pursue their dreams. IOC President Thomas Bach also joined and was given a few tips by Aymar on how to dribble, flick and push the ball.
Athletics with Felix Sanchez, Wilson Kipketer, Hicham El Guerrouj, Yelena Isinbaeva and Stefan Holm
Five track-and-field stars who together have 11 Olympic medals headed to the Pierre De Coubertin Stadium to meet and greet young athletes of the region. After an introduction to the competing athletes and the crowd, each champion spent some time with the aspiring juniors competing in their respective disciplines, offering advice and support as they looked to set new heights in their fledgling careers.
Gymnastics with Nadia Comaneci
Gymnastics legend and perfect 10 icon Nadia Comaneci visited Montreux's gymnasium, where 30 young girls from three clubs in the area welcomed her with glowing smiles. The five-time Olympic gold medallist spent some time with the youngsters and delivered some valuable tips and advice in tumbling, on the balance beam and uneven bars, and assisted them with conditioning exercises. She went on to sign the local club's beam.
"When I was their age and started gymnastics, there were not many sports for women, and gym was one of them. I myself was looking up to someone who was succeeding," Nadia said. "We always have someone to look up to, and we always try to become good in what we do. By being here I hope I can give the kids a new motivation and inspire them to be the best at what they do and just realise that what they do is good for them."
This weekend's celebrations give an exciting glimpse of what the people of Lausanne will experience during the Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 (9 to 22 January).