Innsbruck’s X-Factor

5 October 2011

The 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games (WYOG) are all about snow sports, young athletes and cross-cultural involvement. With 1,100 young stars on skis, snowboards and skates providing the event’s basic anatomy, the International Olympic Committee’s Culture and Education Program (CEP) generates the pulse of the Youth Olympic movement.

As Australian Young Ambassador Ramone Cooper explains, “Innsbruck 2012 is a festival of sport rather than a standalone sporting event.”

“The athletes will be immersed in other cultures and other aspects of sport,” Cooper said of the inaugural event scheduled for January 13-22, 2012.

Last month Cooper and Young Ambassadors from 33 other nations tested the CEP activities on the ground in Innsbruck.

“We were basically the guinea pigs- we got to test out the programs they had in place and it was a really good experience,” the Vancouver Olympian moguls skier said.

The WYOG athletes- all aged 15 to 18, will stay in Innsbruck for the entire two-week Games period and Cooper believes the CEP offers them a productive way to spend their downtime.

“One of the IOC’s goals and one of the things I’m most excited about is that the CEP is giving these fantastic athletes the tools to be positive role models. It will be a really positive experience for our athletes and it can be really influential for our athletes when they return and compete elsewhere,” Cooper said.

The WYOG also endeavours to transcend nations, ensuring the YOG DNA: the Spirit of the Youth Olympic Games, can reach out to many.

As part of the Youth Olympic World Mile, Wangaratta High School in the Victorian winter belt has been twinned with Austrian school Öffentliches Gymnastium der Franziskaner located just outside Innsbruck. Letters between classes have been exchanged, Olympic mascots traded and representatives from Austria and Australia have crossed the globe.

Irmi Tonninger, an English teacher from the Austrian school visited Wangaratta this August. Tonninger had the chance to teach a German class and give the year seven students a hands-on experience with the winter sports vocabulary.

“My pupils and I appreciate the fact that we have been given the opportunity to participate in this international project, which is bound to further cultural understanding and exchange on different levels,” Tonninger said while travelling with the Australian Boxing Kangaroo mascot.

The cross-cultural exchange between schools will culminate in a display that the Austrian class presents during the WYOG about Australian traditions, culture and geography.

In turn Chef de Mission of the Australian Team, gold medallist Alisa Camplin, decided the Tyrolean school is the perfect location for the excitement when the inaugural Australian Youth Winter Olympic Team receives their Olympic uniforms in January next year.

The Australian Olympic Committee’s official Welcome Ceremony- already one of the most sought-after tickets in Innsbruck, will also be held at the school. The Austrian students will be invited to the dramatic cross-cultural display to be played out on January 10th. 

This is one example of a sports event uniting nations and cultures.

To follow the Youth Olympic Games movement visit Olympics.com.au/innsbruck2012.

Taya Conomos
AOC

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