Singapore: humanity wins the day at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games

Published: 30 August 2010 0:00 CET

Reeni Aminchua, IFRC

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), with support from the Singapore Red Cross, has been developing young athletes’ understanding of global humanitarian issues at the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.

The games were held for two weeks from 14 to 26 August with some 5,000 athletes and officials from the 205 National Olympic Committees. Helping the event run smoothly were an estimated 20,000 local and international volunteers, and there was also a strong media presence with 1,200 representatives from the media.

Promoting youth achievement

IFRC was one of six international organizations to participate in the culture and education programme designed for the athletes at the Olympic village. The programme encourages greater learning, sharing and interaction among the athletes, while inspiring them to embrace and live the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect. The programme forms an integral component of the games and is built around the five themes of olympism, skills development, well-being and healthy lifestyle, social responsibility and expression.

The IFRC designed a pavilion in the Olympic village where volunteers from the Singapore Red Cross provided daily first-aid demonstrations. Young athletes from around the world were able to visit the Red Cross Red Crescent pavilion and, despite language barriers, they had the opportunity to observe and practise first aid.

Becoming a humanitarian ambassador

The IFRC also carried out humanitarian story-telling seminars which were designed to encourage the young athletes to use their role as prominent figures to define and promote humanitarian issues in their communities. Participants discussed issues which ranged from racism to malaria to global warming. A number of these video diaries have been captured on camera with the aim of sharing them more widely.

Singapore Red Cross youth volunteers, Cheong Mao Lin and Kaiyan Leong, assisted in carrying out the seminars.

“Being able to discuss and talk about humanitarian issues with the athletes from the Youth Olympics is one of the best opportunities offered to youth volunteers in Singapore for some years. Many of the athletes here, if not already a public figure, will likely become one in the years to come. The experience offered has already begun to make me a person with a stronger sense of purpose in my life. Experiences like this are priceless,” says Mao Lin.

Kaiyan Leong was equally enthusiastic. “It was an eye-opener for me. I have had the chance to meet many talented athletes and some role-model Olympians. Even though they are champions of their own causes, the ones that truly inspire me are the young athletes who have big dreams of how they would want to change the world.”

The story-telling seminars allowed young athletes to meet role-model Olympians who shared their personal experiences on achieving success and greater excellence in all they do and, importantly, to be change-makers in their own communities.

Two-time Olympian and gold medallist Hamish Carter, and six-time time Paralympian and medallist Robert Balk, took part in the first seminars. They encouraged young athletes to start thinking about humanitarian issues and how they can use their status to inspire others.

“Being a role model is not only about being the best on the field, but also being credible, reliable and being the best you can be as a person. These are very important issues for athletes to reflect on. It is important that you speak about humanitarian issues that are important to you, from your own experiences, and from your hearts,” said Robert Balk.

This inspired Kwanieze John, a 21-year-old rugby player from Trinidad and Tobago, to raise the issue of human rights in her country, and how she can use rugby as a platform to train girls in her country to be more confident about themselves.

Another athlete from Serbia, 17-year-old volleyball competitor Stefan Vladisavljev said, “I am really concerned about air pollution. This issue affects me and my health, as well as the community around me. I believe we can all make a difference by working together. I aspire to go on and compete in the Olympic Games, but I would also like to attend university and study journalism. Perhaps one day, I will be able to influence people towards this cause with what I have to say.”