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  • Q&A with Lausanne 2020 President, Part Two


    (Lausanne 2020).
    (ATR) Organizers of the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne have less than four months to get ready. Opening ceremony is January 9 for this third installment of the winter YOG.

    Training for the torch relay and volunteers begins next month.

    Virginie Faivre, president of Lausanne 2020 and world champion freestyle skier, says the upcoming torch relay is meant to inspire young people in Switzerland.

    She explains in part two of a Q&A with Around the Rings.

    ATR: Give us a sneak peak at what you have planned for the torch relay and how it will benefit Swiss youth in the years ahead?

    VF: Our Torch Tour will see the flame visiting all 26 regions in Switzerland.

    It starts of course in Greece, with the lighting of the flame. This will already be done soon, in September, to allow enough time for the flame to travel all through the country in the three months leading up to the Games.

    The tour is organized with our National Olympic Committee, Swiss Olympic, and focuses a lot on schools. In many cases, the schools will host the flame and it will give them the opportunity to talk about what the flame represents, and the values it carries.

    This will be very important in engaging the entire nation - also the Swiss German part of the country, so that the whole of Switzerland supports and recognizes the value of the Olympic Games.
    Virginie Faivre and IOC President Thomas Bach (IOC)

    ATR: - What have been some of the challenges in terms of stakeholder engagement? Or was this one of those rare projects that didn't need much "selling" because everyone seems to be backing it?

    VF: We have been really pleased to see how well received our project is. This has been the case since the very early days back in 2013. Everywhere we go – we feel a very strong support.

    I see two main reasons for this: from the beginning, we have let our host sites engage in these Games in their own way. We have encouraged them to see how Lausanne 2020 could help them achieve their own development objectives. Our CEO Ian Logan always felt very strongly about this.

    In this country, nothing can work if it comes imposed from the top, and this approach of letting the Games adapt to their communities, not the other way around, is central to one of our five commitments and the IOC’s new norm.

    I think that the second reason for our widespread support is the product itself. As hosts, we see a tremendous value in what the Youth Olympic Games concept is about. Bringing one of the most recognized brands in the world – the Olympic rings – and focusing their evocative power on youth, is clearly a very strong tool for engagement, and I think it’s something many mayors and sports ministers should consider when hosting future editions.

    ATR: -We don't often think about legacy for governments. What will be the legacies benefiting local and regional governments?

    VF: In our case, local, regional and even federal governments all want to host these Games to say something different about Switzerland.

    We are known for quite a few things internationally, but maybe not for youth, education and sport. This will be a fantastic opportunity to add these elements to our brand. Also - and this is also one of our five commitments - we want to focus on creating new partnerships, and this includes governments.

    At the city level, Lausanne 2020 has fostered new collaborations between sport and culture, which will be very strong for the future.

    In addition, Lausanne 2020 has sparked a great collaboration between Switzerland and France, with one of our host sites, Les Rousses (Les Tuffes stadium), being in France. As a result of the Games, Swiss athletes will be allowed to train there for 20 years at a very low cost. All these are very strong legacies for sport and these new partnerships should be here to stay.

    ATR: -We checked your "jobs" page and it seems that only some volunteer translators are needed. Has it been relatively easy to find staff? Anything lacking in these last few weeks?

    VF: Well, you must have caught us at a bad time!

    We are hiring at a very high rate these days. On January 1st this year we were about 20 people strong, and now we are more than 50! We get a lot of job applications, of course, as working for an Olympic Games is very motivating for people, especially here in the heart of the Olympic Capital.

    ERACOM student Elsa Bersier working on Look of the Games (Lausanne 2020)
    For the volunteers, we are very happy with the result of our search. It took us barely a month to get more volunteer applications than the number of spaces we will have for the Games (3,000) – which is very good news for all of our stakeholders.

    ATR: -What will be the legacy for volunteers? The benefits to the individuals for having given their time? Will this help them in their future lives?

    VF: Absolutely – this is very important for us.

    A volunteer program should be a very fulfilling experience. We will offer specific training to volunteers in the fall, and the skills developed during the event will be very useful in the future.

    But I also want to say that we want to focus on the intergenerational approach here. Switzerland has a strong volunteer culture, but not only within young people. Retired people are very much involved, as they too can dedicate some time to this cause.

    Attracting a diverse group of volunteers, and enabling them to integrate and learn from one another, is a very important dimension in our program and we look forward to seeing it come to fruition.

    ATR:  In many places it is a big challenge to get the kids to put the phones down and DO SOMETHING. How did you entice them to do this? Or are Swiss youth less tied to their devices and more active and engaged?

    VF: I think generally-speaking, young people in Switzerland are similar to those from other countries, and of course this includes the increased use of technology and devices.

    Personally-speaking, putting Swiss kids ‘back on skis’, or increasing their access to sport, is one of my key objectives for these Games, and something I spend a lot of time on. Winter sport can be expensive, and schools are less inclined nowadays to do ski camps, as children can be less trained, while insurance issues also seem to be getting tougher.

    So it’s really important to facilitate this access where possible.

    I’ve personally been promoting all the initiatives that aim to increase sports participation, and I will continue to do so – with the entire team and with our partners, so that we achieve this sport development element with is one of our key five commitments.

    ATR:  No doubt we have missed many things. What would you like to say that we haven't asked?

    VF: The only other thing I’d like to do is to extend an invitation to all your readers who are interested in the Olympic world, and especially to your media colleagues, to experience Lausanne 2020 for themselves.

    My message is simple: something special will happen here in Switzerland in January next year. It won’t ‘just’ be another edition of the Youth Olympic Games - not only will they take place in the stunning landscape of the Swiss Alps, but they will be the first Games fully organised under the umbrella of Agenda 2020 and the New Norm. They will provide a glimpse into what Games in the future will look like. We really hope to see you in January in Lausanne!

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