The multi-sport complex in Lusaka, Zambia, hosted a five-nation hockey tournament, where boys and girls from Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe competed for a place in this summer’s 2nd Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. The host team made history as they secured their first ever qualification for a Youth Olympic Games (YOG), along with pre-tournament favourites, South Africa.
Part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Sport for Hope Programme, the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC), which opened its doors in 2010, aims to provide athletes, young people and local African communities with opportunities to practise sport and learn about the Olympics values.
A stage for young athletes
Last week, enthusiastic crowds filled the OYDC with joy and excitement as they watched their local boys’ and girls’ hockey teams battle it out on the field, in a bid to secure one of two places for the YOG in Nanjing, this summer. “We have watched these boys and girls walk into the Olympic Youth Development Centre without any knowledge of the existence of hockey,” enthused the Director of the OYDC, Clement Chileshe.
Three years later, these young athletes have achieved an incredible victory by qualifying for their first major international sporting event, along with the South Africans. This milestone is an inspiration for the OYDC, the local community and in particular the young players. “It helps them believe in themselves economically and socially, and it will encourage them to do well in school and other areas of their lives,” commented Chileshe.
“A number of people are surprised at how fast we have achieved our goal, but when you have great supporting partners, as well as committed and extremely talented players, you can achieve miracles,” rejoiced the OYDC Director bursting with pride.
For the host nation Zambia, a qualification for the Youth Olympic Games is an invaluable opportunity to raise the profile of the Olympic Youth Development Centre and provide a further incentive for investing in youth development programmes. As one player’s mother exclaimed: “The games were excellent for the boys and girls. They have made not only us parents proud, but also the nation.”
For the latest news on the OYDC hockey tournament, visit the International Hockey Federation’s website: www.fih.ch
Hope and development through sport
The OYDC has grown considerably since it first opened its doors in 2010. Welcoming on average 10,000 youngsters on a regular basis, the state-of-the-art sports centre, which was launched four years ago by the IOC with the support of the Olympic Movement, now has an Olympic swimming pool, a lodge and a health centre. In all, the facility offers training opportunities for 16 different sports, with an emphasis on basketball, boxing, judo, hockey, track & field, table tennis and swimming. It is also the training ground for a number of high performance athletes, who hope to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
In the four years of operations, more than 100 young athletes who had not practised sport before have since been integrated into national teams. The multi-sport centre also offers a wide range of educational programmes, health services and community activities aimed at improving the quality of life in a country ravaged by HIV/AIDS, poverty, crime and unemployment.