Report on the young athletes' feedback regarding the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games / Milena M. Parent, Eric MacIntosh, Elsa Kristiansen, Michael L. Naraine

Parent, Milena M. | MacIntosh, Eric | Kristiansen, Elsa | Naraine, Michael L.

Edited by [s.n.] - 2016

The purpose of this report was to examine in greater depth the perceptions of Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) young athletes during and post-Games. Data from Games-time interviews with 36 young athletes (15 females, 21 males) representing 24 National Olympic Committees (NOCs; all continents) and 14 disciplines, as well as a post-Games survey administered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to all young athletes, with 174 respondents (86 boys, 85 girls) were analyzed for pre-Games, during Games and post-Games aspects. In general, Lillehammer 2016 was the first international multi-sport experience for the majority of athletes. Most athletes were aware of the YOG thanks to Innsbruck 2012, as well as their coach, and promoted the YOG and their participation to their family and friends. However, as expected due to differences in resources, the NOCs’ degree of effort to prepare the athletes pre-Games seemed to vary. During the Games, athletes enjoyed their experience, especially the atmosphere, meeting new people, the organizing committee staff and volunteers, and the Learn & Share Activities. The quality of the sport competition seemed to have improved compared to Innsbruck 2012. To wit, the majority of athletes surveyed indicated Lillehammer 2016 constituted the peak of their competitive season and was akin to a world junior championship in terms of quality. However, athletes suggested food quality, availability and variability should be improved. As well, the degree of long-term effectiveness of some learning activities is questioned; for example, most athletes interviewed could not name the three Olympic Values despite having just done Learn & Share Activities. Thus, although Learn & Share Activities may have been perceived as a success, further analysis of their effectiveness to ingrain various learnings (e.g., Olympic Values, sustainability, or drug-free sport) is warranted to improve the long-term impact these activities have on the young athletes’ lives to a level desired by the IOC. Athletes perceived the young ambassadors (YAs) to be useful, especially as a source of information regarding the Learn & Share Activities and as a source of encouragement to ‘get the most out of the YOG.’ Half the athletes had family or friends present in Lillehammer, while all athletes indicated the importance of support from their entourage, whether they were physically present or not. Almost all young athletes surveyed shared their Games-time YOG experience using social media, mainly Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. The YOGGER was a hit, and was used mainly to meet new friends and collect points; however, its novelty seemed to diminish after the first few days of use. Though understandable, further examination of the integration between the YOGGER, the Learn & Share Activities, and the mobile device application is warranted to maximize the benefits of both for the young athletes. Overall, athletes enjoyed themselves, rating their experience as an average of 9.65 out of 10 on the survey. Although most young athletes would not see themselves as Young Olympians, based on the interviews, many felt they could be role models for younger children and they did feel inspired to further their competitive careers and attempt to reach the Olympic Winter Games in 2018 or 2022. Athletes offered a number of suggestions to improve the event, from having athletes come in by country during the Opening Ceremonies, to increasing the number of events showcased, as well as the number of activities where athletes interact. These suggestions and the rest of the findings highlight three core aspects, which emerge as defining the YOG: 1) as an opportunity for athletic development; 2) as a learning environment; and 3) as a social environment. In conclusion, across the board, athletes noted Lillehammer 2016 had been a “life experience,” “great,” “fun,” “awesome,” and “exciting.” The computed Enjoyment factor positively supported the interview results. Based on the feedback obtained, the IOC and the Lillehammer organizing committee are to be commended for their efforts.

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