“Climate change” said the badminton player from USA. “Racism” said the athlete from Cyprus, “Malaria” added the two girls from Mali. These young athletes did not take long to identify today’s most important global issues when we asked them during out workshop on humanitarian storytelling.
We were joined by one of the ‘athlete role models’ as they are called here, volleyball player Yumilka from Cuba, who has won three Olympic medals with her team mates. Yumilka talked about how after her team’s success, she suddenly realized that people would listen to her because she was a sports star, and how she now had to carefully choose her words when speaking publicly in her community and her country. However, she saw it as an opportunity and has since been involved in many projects and global issues. Like other Cuban athletes she is presently engaged in promoting healthy living for young people in her country, and she encouraged the young athletes at the workshop to choose a subject and make a change. All athletes at the workshop agreed that just by participating in the Youth Olympics has made other youngsters in their community look up to them.
Zenas from California then volunteered to conduct a video interview with Yumilka, afterward swapping places with Zenas having the chance to be interviewed. He talked about the danger of reducing the budget for education in his state, as education offers people a way out of poverty and is a good investment as young people who are educated are less likely to encounter social problems or need social assistance later.
Later in the day 200 metre runner Nkiruka Florence Nwakwe from Nigeria, already a hero in her country, although not yet as famous as her role model Mary Onyaly, talked about poverty. Swimmer Zineb from Morocco gave an interview on the problems of doping in sport and teakwondo athlete Christian from Peru took us back to the pressing issue of climate change and talked about changing the behaviour of young people, targeting them with campaigns about environment and recycling.
Late at night we were visited by a group of Chinese athletes who wanted some first aid training. They also wanted to an interview on humanitarian issues but in true Asian community style they wanted to leave their message a group: “Protect mother Earth and love your family”, was their joint message. The past 24 hours have definitely demonstrated that most of the young athletes are very concerned about a wide range of issues, both local and global, and are already thinking about how they can make a change in their own community and society.
Our Flickr gallery from the Singapore Youth Olympic Games:
Editor’s note: Lasse Norgaard is part of the IFRC’s Asia Pacific communication team, here reporting from Singapore