The first Dakar 2026 initiatives were launched through the Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP), with 60 future OVEP implementers taking part in a training course to help them develop their own educational programmes around the Olympic values.
Since the start of spring, Senegal has been celebrating sport and its values with activities organized in the lead-up to the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Dakar 2026. The goals are to engage with young people, get them moving, introduce them to the Olympic values and identify those who will ultimately contribute to the staging of the YOG. Such activities will be organized every year in the spirit of teranga*, as momentum builds all the way up to 2026.
Following the four-year postponement of the YOG in Dakar, the Dakar 2026 Organizing Committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have been working closely to make the most of this additional time by putting together a unique programme of activities to mobilize young people in Senegal and Africa and transform the Senegalese sports sector in the long term.
A task force, made up of teams from the IOC and Dakar 2026, plus local stakeholders – the City of Dakar and the Senegalese Ministries of Youth, Sport and Education – is working to identify concrete action to be implemented this year.
“With our partners in Senegal, we have selected activities that blend sport, art and music to connect with young people specifically,” said the Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for Dakar 2026, Kirsty Coventry. “2022 will be a very significant year for the organizers, with exciting programmes offered in Dakar and across Senegal. It is a real taste of the very ambitious engagement programme envisaged between now and 2026.”
The programme of activities has been developed as part of the pre-Games legacy plan. It embodies the Dakar 2026 vision: “Youth and sport united to contribute to the transformation of Senegal, and a source of inspiration for Africa.”
Concrete action on the ground from 2022 all the way to 2026
The first educational initiatives began this week through the Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP). Training sessions are being given to 60 participants from organizations interested in Olympism and promoting the Olympic values, including the Senegalese National Olympic Academy, the Ministries of Sport, National Education and Youth, and the National Education and Sports Institute (INSEPS). The participants, who are instructors themselves, are being given a full introduction to the Olympic values as part of two- to three-day train-the-trainer workshops. They are learning how to develop their own educational programmes and tailor activities to their communities and specific local contexts. Once they have completed the course, the instructors will become ambassadors for Olympism as part of the “OVEP Master Trainers” community in Senegal.
A new feature of the educational programme will be the “Brevet Olympique Civique et Sportif” certificate, which is aimed at schoolchildren throughout the country, from primary to secondary school level. Classes will be given to pupils to teach them about the Olympic values as part of their allocated civic education hours. The goal is also to identify potential YOG volunteers and grant a label to the schools taking part in the programme.
The traditional “Youth Weeks” will be taking place in May, and they will have a distinctive Olympic flavour between 2022 and 2026. The 2022 edition, which was officially launched by the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, on 2 April, will have the theme “Youth Weeks in tandem with Olympism”. Some 9,000 young people will take part in competitions throughout the country between 26 and 29 May 2022. The goals are to make participation in sports competitions more freely accessible to young people and to raise awareness about the YOG.
One of the highlights of the programme will be the “Dakar en Jeux!” festival in October and November 2022 – when the YOG were initially due to take place. This celebration of sport and culture will then be held every year all the way up until 2026. The festival will be an opportunity to raise the profile of the YOG and mobilize key stakeholders, in particular local young people.
“We are delighted to see that young people are already getting physically active, getting excited, discovering new sports and looking after their health in the run-up to the Games,” said Ibrahima Wade, the General Coordinator for the YOG Dakar 2026. “We will be celebrating the arrival of the Games – which are highly anticipated – over the next four years. We are welcoming sport in the spirit of teranga!”
Other sports activities being taken round the country and developed for the long term
The “Kids Olympic Skills” programme will enable young people to get familiar with and hone their skills in new Olympic sports, and practise these sports on a more regular basis. The sports will vary depending on the region, so that they are best tailored to the young participants’ respective local environments. This initiative will also help to develop a nationwide programme to promote water sports, which will include offering swimming lessons to children. The “Impact 52 Fitness” programme will be more oriented towards health and well-being. This programme will be taken round the country to engage directly with the people of Senegal, with a view to promoting the physical and mental health benefits of sport and exercise, and raising awareness about public health issues.
The YOG Dakar 2026: an Olympic first in Africa
The YOG 2026 aim to serve as a catalyst to transform Senegalese young people through sport, and become a blueprint for Senegal and future YOG hosts. There are 28 sports on the programme, plus seven additional sports that were proposed by Dakar 2026 (baseball5, breaking, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing and wushu). The Games will be held across three host sites, Dakar, Diamniadio and Saly. The official dates will be announced in due course.
*Senegal’s distinct brand of respect and hospitality.
Frederick Marfo is a sportswriter and social worker well known for his advocacy for equal chances and rights for all athletes, especially those with disabilities.