In the countdown to 2012, the Young Ambassadors programme is striving to ensure the much-vaunted legacy of the London Olympics becomes a reality
The London Olympic Games might still be years away but the work to ensure the Games leave a lasting legacy for young people and sport in this country has already started. The Young Ambassador programme, managed by Youth Sport Trust and jointly funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, has recently seen 1,000 more young people aged between 14 and 18 be selected to promote the values and ideals of the Olympic and Paralympic movement. Each year, until 2012, School Sport Partnerships across England will recruit two young people, chosen for either their sporting ability or their commitment to volunteering, to take on the role of a Young Ambassador for two years. In their first year they work in their local communities undertaking activities such as giving primary school assemblies and organising community festivals. In the second year they take on a mentoring role with the new Young Ambassador intake. Entering its second year, the national network of Young Ambassadors now stands at 1,800 young people. This winter saw six specially arranged conferences help these new ambassadors learn more about their roles. The conferences took place at some of the UK’s foremost sporting venues. Stamford Bridge – home of Chelsea Football Club – and Lancashire County Cricket Club’s Old Trafford ground in Manchester were just two of the venues that provided the backdrop for an inspirational day of workshops and activities. On hand at each conference to mentor the Young Ambassadors were Olympic and Paralympic medallists from the worlds of athletics, cycling, swimming, rowing, canoeing and judo. The athletes involved possess over 50 Olympic, Paralympic, World, European and Commonwealth medals between them. In interactive workshops and question and answer sessions led by these sporting champions, the new recruits learnt what it takes to be an Olympic or Paralympic winner, what’s required in the role of an ambassador, what the Olympic and Paralympic movement values are and how they can actively make a difference in their communities. Each athlete delivering the workshops was supported by a Young Ambassador mentor – a Young Ambassador entering their second year. Last year’s Young Ambassadors had an extremely diverse 12 months, with some travelling to Thailand, South Africa or Poland and also writing blogs for the official London 2012 website. Young Ambassador mentor Sarah Smallman, 17, from Hagley Park School Sport Partnership attended two of the recent conferences to pass on her experience and advice for those embarking on the programme. Sarah said: “I became a Young Ambassador through my School Sport Partnership who elected me from all the local schools to represent Cannock and Rugeley. It really has been fantastic as I have got to know all of the local primary schools and the wider community. “We try and pass on information about London 2012 so these young people realise that they can all play a part, whether it is being a volunteer, trainer, spectator or even a participant. I am also proud that I have been asked to act as a mentor for the new Young Ambassadors and pass on some of the things that I have learnt. I encourage them to follow their dreams, to get involved and to enjoy being part of a team.” Steve Grainger, chief executive of Youth Sport Trust, said: “Who better to help us build on the excitement ahead of London 2012 than our next generation of talented athletes and future leaders and volunteers in sport. These Young Ambassadors will be able to use their passion, enthusiasm and commitment to sport to help motivate their friends and colleagues to seize the opportunities presented by the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. They will become role models to other young people and promote the benefits of sport and a healthy lifestyle.”
With the national network of Young Ambassadors set to be in excess of 6,000 young people by the time the Olympic Games reach our shores – all of whom are tasked with promoting the 2012 Games and acting as positive healthy role models – that legacy for young people in this country looks a little bit closer to being achieved.