IOC Young Leader Shiling Lin feeling "lucky and excited" to be part of Beijing 2022 Olympic Torch Relay

Shiling Lin admits she doesn’t remember much about Beijing 2008, when the Olympic Games first came to her homeland. Growing up in Quanzhou, some 2,000km from Beijing, she was only 13 at the time and remembers thinking the event seemed like something “far, far away” from her life on China’s south-east coast. “I just didn't know what the meaning of the Olympic Games was,” she says.

But it’s a very different story for Lin now, as the Chinese capital welcomes the Olympic Movement once again for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, becoming the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games. Not only has Lin dedicated much of her life to sport – working in international sports marketing for the Chinese sportswear company ANTA, before studying for a master’s degree in sports management at the University of San Francisco and becoming a research assistant at Tsinghua University’s Centre for Development of Sports Industry – but she has also become fully enamoured with the Olympic Games and the Olympic spirit as one of 25 young people chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be part of the latest edition of the IOC Young Leaders Programme.

More access to sport for underprivileged youth

The four-year initiative, supported by Worldwide Olympic Partner Panasonic, aims to empower Lin and the other participants to make a difference in their communities by providing expert guidance, seed funding and peer-to-peer learning opportunities to enable them to build their own sustainable, sport-focused social businesses. Lin is currently working on plans for her project, which aims to revive traditional Chinese games in underprivileged areas of the country to help young girls and minorities enjoy the benefits of sport. She admits, however, that her own path in the sports industry has not always been easy, having often faced the same challenges as those she is looking to help. “My parents don’t really understand why I wanted to work in the sports industry,” she says. “They would say, ‘They are all males; you cannot compete with them.’ So, they always told me to be a teacher. But I try to live my life independently, and I’m proud of my persistence. I know it's very hard for girls to stand out in the sports industry, and I’m glad that I didn't quit.”

Running with the Olympic flame

As the only IOC Young Leader from China and in recognition of her efforts, the 26-year-old was selected to represent her fellow Young Leaders by participating in the upcoming Beijing 2022 Olympic Torch Relay. Lin was nominated by the IOC Young Leaders Programme, and her participation in the Relay symbolises the IOC’s aim to inspire and engage with youth all over the world.

This objective is reflected in the IOC Young Leaders Programme itself, which seeks to strengthen the role of sport as an important enabler for the UN Sustainable Development Goals by empowering young people to leverage sport in making a positive impact in their communities. “I'm super excited,” reveals Lin. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as I don’t know when China might hold another Olympic Games, so I just feel very grateful and very, very lucky.”

The Olympic flame arrived in Beijing in October, following the traditional lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia in Greece, with plans for the Olympic Torch Relay adapted in line with Beijing 2022’s goal of holding concise, safe and exciting Olympic Winter Games. The Relay is taking place from 2 to 4 February, in the days preceding the Opening Ceremony, with approximately 1,200 torchbearers carrying the flame in the Olympic competition hubs of Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou. “I’m very appreciative of this opportunity,” says Lin of carrying the torch. “It’s my luck to be born in China, and I can see people are very excited about these Games.”

The Olympic Torch Relay is a key part of the countdown to every edition of the Games, helping to build enthusiasm throughout the host country and increase engagement among the general public. For Beijing 2022, the Olympic Torch Relay has also formed part of efforts to use the Olympic Winter Games to engage 300 million people in winter sports. According to the China Tourism Academy, a record 224 million Chinese people participated during the 2018-19 winter season, exceeding 200 million for the first time in history. Lin herself is one of those who has tried skiing, inspired by Beijing 2022.

“My hometown is in the south, where it is warm, so I never really knew what snow was,” she says. “But I moved to Beijing and this year I finally got to know what snow is. The whole experience is really fun, and recently I also went skiing for the first time.

“I think this is very important; to bring more and more people to sport,” she adds. “By encouraging them to participate in different kinds of sports, they can find the joy and fun that you can get by participating.”

It is this same joy and fun that Lin hopes to share with others through her IOC Young Leader project, by improving access to sport for underprivileged youth through traditional Chinese cultural games, such as Daur field hockey, originally from Inner Mongolia; dragon boat racing, which flourished in Hunan, Guangdong and Guizhou provinces; and Wing Chun, a martial art popular in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

“These traditional sports and games – they are in danger of disappearing,” she explains. “They cannot be self-funded, and the younger generation are not aware of the existence of these traditional activities. There are so many people who can’t get high-quality physical education because of the lack of sports equipment – for instance, young girls in remote areas where there are no standard football fields or tennis courts. It’s hard for them to access these sports, so we want to use traditional games and sports instead. Their parents, their grandparents, they know these sports very well, so these can be the tool for them to build their physical and mental health. We just want to encourage everybody to participate and leave no one behind.”

Shiling Lin © Shiling Lin

Help the community benefit from sport

For Lin, participating in the IOC Young Leaders Programme provides a unique opportunity for her to make a significant impact in her community, and she believes sport is uniquely placed to act as a tool, thanks to the benefits it can offer society.

“It sounds like a cliché, but sport can help make our world a better place,” she says. “Every young generation can speak the language of sport. That means we don’t have to learn other people’s languages to play games with them. You just need to look at the Olympic Games; we only need to know the rules, and then we can all communicate through sport. Participation in the IOC Young Leaders Programme is making me think outside the box, so that I can do something real in my community and help people benefit from sport."

And having been encouraged to experience winter sports for the first time through Beijing 2022, Lin knows first-hand the benefits of trying something new. “I definitely want to try skiing again,” she says. “It was my first time, and I was a little worried about how to control myself, but hopefully the next time I can do better. I think that's the key concept of sport; you need practise, you need to participate more, and then you can really get joy from sport.”

The IOC Young Leaders Programme

Launched in 2016, the IOC Young Leaders Programme empowers young people to leverage the power of sport to make a positive difference in their communities. So far, with the support of seed funding from the IOC and a network of mentors, these inspiring young people have delivered over 116 sport-led projects in communities across the globe, promoting themes such as education, social inclusion, sustainability and well-being, and directly benefitting more than 30,000 people.

As a founding partner, Panasonic has supported the IOC Young Leaders Programme since 2017 and continues to do so by providing both additional funding to be used as grants and audiovisual equipment, and by producing impactful storytelling that promotes the programme and the Young Leaders themselves.

Learn more about the IOC Young Leaders Programme here and follow us on:

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More information

IOC Young Leaders Programme

The IOC Young Leaders programme, launched in 2016, empowers talents to leverage the power of sport to make a positive difference in their communities.
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