Nanjing (China): The Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games will offer participating athletes more than two dozen cultural and educational events that promote the spirit of Olympism while integrating real-life issues faced by young sportspersons on and off the field of play.
The events are considered a key part of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG). International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach Thursday said that "participating in the YOG is not simply about sport and performance. It is also about meeting people of other cultures and backgrounds, learning about important skills in an athlete`s career and about experiencing the Olympic values," reports Xinhua.
And through the interactive booths, which include a slingshot target practice focusing on time management, computer programmes that work in lessons on gambling in sports, and a mini basketball shooting range that allows for some team building and laughter, the programme appears to be working.
"This is really great," said Zambian hockey player Shadrick Katele as he looked around the room filled with activities and athletes.
"It`s so good because you meet a lot of new people here."
Katele rattled off countries he has made friends from.
"The Netherlands, Spain, China, New Zealand and everywhere," he said.
For Philippe Furrer, who is leading the Culture and Education Program (CEP) for the IOC, the interaction between athletes as they learn these life skills is crucial.
"We want to inspire these athletes by saying you can do so much more beyond the field of play," he said.
Furrer has begun calling the area where the activities take place, strategically placed as part of the entrance to the food court at the Youth Olympic Village, the "life-changing factory".
"You plant the seeds at this stage," he said.
Those seeds include everything from organised opportunities for young athletes to interact with famous Olympians through a `Chat with Champions` symposium, to much more serious topics such as sexual harassment, positive body image, sports betting and performance-enhancing drugs.
The goal, Furrer said, is to educate the athletes not just on sporting subjects, but on life issues. To that end, he is working to integrate story-telling elements from sporting heroes who have bettered the world off the field.
"This is the heart of Olympism," he said. "This is what we stand for. This is where the athletes learn to go beyond the field of play."