Raising awareness at the YOG

Athletes have not only come to the 3rd Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) to compete. There are also a range of educational activities on offer at the Youth Olympic Villages in Lausanne and St. Moritz, led by the IOC and designed to help the young athletes succeed in their sporting and non-sporting careers.

The activities are based in the Athlete365 Awareness Zone, a welcoming and spacious area laid out in style of a ski chalet, and which is the perfect place for athletes to relax and unwind away from competitions while learning about important topics.

The central seating area has a number of tablets, supporting learning in a fun and interactive format, while there are also air hockey and table tennis tables dotted about the space, along with an ‘unfair’ game of table football designed to educate athletes about the importance of fair play.

This is part of the prevention of competition manipulation booth, where athletes can also play a popular ‘Share/Don’t Share’ game relating to inside information and what athletes should or shouldn’t post on social media. Do this and they can take away with them an exclusive Athlete365 power bank – super useful for charging low phone batteries in the winter cold.

The IOC staff and volunteers leading these activities have been joined by a number of relatable athlete ambassadors to help spread the message, including Jakob Špik, a Slovenian ski racer who retired last year due to injury at the age of 25.

“This may not be the most relevant group yet when it comes to competition manipulation, but in future years they will become the main target group, or the main group which will be involved in competition manipulation attempts,” he says. “So it’s good if you educate them when they’re young so they are aware of the problem, and know how they should react.”

Across the room, athletes can also learn about the support available to them via the IOC to help further their sporting and non-sporting careers. Here, the Athlete365 Career+ stand allows athletes to build a schedule, learn about time management and match their skills to the job market, while the Olympic Solidarity booth hosts a fun balance-board game and advises athletes and their entourage about the funding, scholarships and training programmes that might be available to them.

“It’s good to know that the small delegations are able to have more opportunities, and maybe now I’ve competed at the YOG I can continue skiing with the support of Olympic Solidarity,” says Mia Nuriah Freudweiler, who is in Lausanne as the first-ever Winter YOG competitor from Pakistan. “I think it can open doors for lots of young athletes who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go further.”

Meanwhile, next door there are opportunities to learn about the crucial issue of safeguarding and what it means, supported by a variety of educational tools. Here, athletes can sign a colouring wall, take a survey make to their voice heard (the results will shape future IOC Safeguarding policy at the YOG), and show their support by posting a picture with a photo frame and the hashtag #SafeSport.

On visiting each of these awareness activities, athletes can earn virtual ‘pin’ by correctly answering a question through the popular App Pinquest, which is exclusive to YOG athletes. Get them all and they can then be exchanged for a real-life pin at the Yodli Cafe, among other prizes. It is fun, interactive activities like these that are allowing athletes to engage with the educational activities in a positive, relaxed environment away from the stress of competition.

“You enter and you immediately feel at home,” says Oriol Olm Rouppert, a ski mountaineer from Andorra, about the Athlete365 Awareness Zone. “These are very important topics for our education, and when you come to the YOG you want to meet new people and have these new experiences. This is a great way.”