The first Olympic Youth Development Centre under the IOC’s Sport for Hope Programme came to life on Tuesday as some 600 young athletes used the state-of-the-art facilities in Lusaka, Zambia, for the first time.
“This is so cool,” said Julia Lostrom, a 14-year-old hockey player, upon seeing the artificial turf on the pitch. “I’m so proud of Zambia for doing this.” “Everything in the game will change.”
And her hockey mate Floyd Chomba, 19, added: 'This is a wonderful thing which has come to all the sports, especially the hockey field, because we never had a turf like this. We’ve never had Astroturf. We couldn't really practise like we were supposed to. Now we have this one, we can play an international game. Because of the fields, we can show our best talents and our best skills. It will improve our practice, our accurate passes and our scores. Everything in the game will change.'
Multi-purpose sport complex
Besides the hockey field, the Olympic Youth Development Center offers a soccer field, a track and courts that can be used for different sports such as basketball, netball and volleyball. The facility also includes a boxing ring and a multi-purpose building. Furthermore there are classrooms, a library and a computer zone that, as IOC President Rogge said during yesterday’s inauguration, will introduce young people to “the digital age.”
“Our youth should be proud they have a facility of this magnitude,” said Kenneth Chipungu, Zambia’s Minister of Sport, Youth and Child Development. “From time immemorial, they have been struggling to have a place like this and finally we have it.”
And Zambia’s President, Rupiah Bwezani Banda, who participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, stated: “Zambia stands at a time in history when sport is now internationally recognised as an effective means to achieve developmental goals,” noting that 68 per cent of the Zambian people are under 35 years old.
Seventeen year-old basketball player Mofya Yamba could not hide his excitement: 'This is amazing. I'm a bit taken aback. In Zambia, if you go to a sports centre, you only see one court. I just counted six and I think there's one indoors. I've never played on anything like this. For us, this is hope. They're kind of saving our lives with this one. If you live in an area like this, we don't get to see much of this.'
“We’ve never had such a track before,” added Albert Mundia, 22, who used to train for the 800 metres on grass. “It will equalise our sports, and then we’ll be having good times and we’ll be qualifying for the Olympics.”
Patrick Chamunda, IOC member from Zambia, concluded: “This is a realisation of a dream for most of us, particularly for the young people who will have access to these facilities.”
Athletes and community as target groups
With the support of several partners, the IOC launched the centre three years as its pilot project in the Sports for Hope Programme. “This is not just a national centre for elite athletes,” Rogge said yesterday. “We are confident it will become the centre for regional and even international competitions. And perhaps, just as importantly, it will be a centre for sports and services for the local community. On this success, we hope to build similar centres in other regions around the world.”
Sports for Hope Programme
The Sports for Hope Programme aims to provide athletes, young people and communities in developing countries with better opportunities to practise sport and to be educated in the values of Olympism. Basically, every individual should have access to sport, and the IOC works constantly towards making this vision a reality.
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