Before being Head of Sports for the Lausanne 2020 Organising Committee, Simone Righenzi was in charge of the relations with National Federations at Swiss Olympic. Simone has a concrete experience of the Games, including the Youth Olympic Games, as he was the main coach for the Swiss teams in Innsbruck 2012 and in Nanjing 2014.
Which impact will the organisation of the Youth Olympic Games in the Vaud Alps will have on the training of regional athletes?
In a certain way, the French speaking part of Switzerland is a black hole on the Swiss map in terms of structures to promote grassroots sports. This is mostly due to a lack of infrastructures that are capable of hosting training camps and competitions. For example, today, the young talent from the region in freestyle skiing have to travel through Switzerland and even consider attending school in German to progress in their careers.
A homologated slope and a permanent training stadium at the Diablerets, a new halfpipe, a Park and a BigAir in Leysin will allow the regional associations to put training structures in place to take charge and promote the talents of the region. The Vaud Alps will be transformed into a fertile ground for the next generations of skiers and snowboarders.
What is the objective of the local partners in the region of Vallée de Joux through the organisation of the Youth Olympic Games?
The Vallée de Joux has a long-term vision for the development of sport, but also of its territory. The Games will act as a catalyst for this project that will go beyond 2020 and that will revitalise winter sports in this magnificent region. A new Nordic centre is currently being built, as well as a training structure to ensure the next generations of cross-country skiers, biathletes and ski jumpers can train in the best possible conditions. A greater collaboration with neighbouring France and an active participation of the population are also at the heart of this project. The Vallée de Joux wants to revitalise and give value to its region, which is still quite unknown.
How do the Swiss winter sports federations get ready for the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne?
Lausanne 2020 obviously constitutes a great opportunity for Swiss sport, but it is only one element in an already existing wider training system. Therefore, it is normal that Lausanne 2020 is not yet amongst the current priorities of the national federations, who currently concentrate on upcoming events and on the long-term promotion of their current young athletes.
Swiss Olympic has put together a programme which will not only support and guarantee the legacy of the Games, but also prepare in the best possible way the athletes that will take part in these Games. We must however keep in mind that these Games will only be one step in their careers, an experience that will allow them to go further, higher and stronger.
We are convinced that the closer we get to the Games, the more important they will become in the agenda of Swiss sport.
Photo: Simone Righenzi at the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck in 2012