Innsbruck 2012 Youth Olympic Games

13 - 22 January, 2012 Innsbruck, Austria

Winter Youth Olympic Games kicked off in Innsbruck

After three years of preparations the First Winter Youth Olympic Games (Innsbruck 2012 Youth Olympic Games) officially kicked off on 13 January 2012 in the majestic city of Innsbruck located in the heart of the Austrian Alps.

The city of Innsbruck is no stranger to the Olympics or young people having hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1964 and 1976, and being the seat of major universities. UNEP, a long standing partner of the International Olympic Committee, is actively participating in Innsbruck 2012, as part of the Culture and Education Programme (CEP) of the Games. UNEP is conducting multi-faceted set of activities to promote environmental awareness and action by engaging the young athletes participating at the games and others (athlete’s family and the general public).

One of the pillars of the UNEP Sport and Environment Programme is using the popularity of sport as a tool to promote environmental awareness and respect for the environment among the public, especially young people. To that end, several sport personalities have been lending their voices in support of the environment sustainability agenda through the UNEP/ IOC message board outside the UNEP booth intended to share with the participate what the Rio+20 conference is all about, and also collect as many messages as possible in the lead up to the conference. Several high profile personalities visited the UNEP booth and participated in a discussion on environment sustainability issues. Some of the people and messages include: Pal Schmitt, President of the Republic of Hungary emphasized the importance of environmental sustainability by linking his message to young people to the Olympic motto r "Faster, Higher, Stronger" while adding a fourth motto “Greener”.

Alexander Popov - Olympic medalist in swimming 1992, 1996 and 2000 noting Sochi being the host of the Olympic winter games in 2014, educating young people and environmental considerations should be high on the agenda.

Ms Nawal El Moutawakel - IOC executive board member and Olympic medalist 1984 noted that Rio+20 will definitely be a great opportunity for all of us to assess our mutual actions and promises to current and future generations as well as the Planet.

Ms. Anita Defrantz, Chairperson of the Women and Sport Commission and Olympic medalist 1976 added her voice by saying women hold up half the sky – we must all work to protect it. His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander, Chairman of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) brought with him the Dutch athletes and shared his view on the need to provide everyone with safe drink water and sanitation.

A member of the Canadian team expressed her desire to see environment sustainability to be at the central part of the Youth Games and said “Let´s see sustainability and environmental action into the Youth Olympics! It is important for our future!”

You start now, they will follow. Be an example to a greener world that is part of Fair Play also.

The spirit of Bob Marely was also injected into the sustainability message: “One love, one heart. Let´s get together and feel alright” while drawing a parallel and ending it by saying One Planet. Let´s protect it!

Tunza Progamme

Innsbruck also offered an opportunity to present and share with the young athletes and young people from the local schools the UNEP long-term strategy for engaging young people in environmental activities through environmental awareness, information exchange and capacity building to foster a generation of environmentally conscious citizens, capable of positive action. Several athletes as well as people from public expressed interested in receiving UNEP´s flagship youth magazine.

Athletes and toxic chemicals and waste.

UNEP together with the a former Norwegian Olympic Gold Medalist Stine Lise Hattestad Bratsberg run a hands on workshop to raise awareness on the impact of hazardous chemicals and wastes to human health and the environment. The workshop is based on Safe Planet: the United Nations Campaign for Responsibility on Hazardous and Wastes and attracted several people.

Stine is one of the public figures volunteered to have her body tested and pledged to make her chemical body burden test public, and raise awareness of the need for action on the threats posed by hazardous chemicals and wastes. Her test showed she has 31 different chemicals in her body not good for her health. They include Brominated flame retadants (BDE) from computers, telephones, clothes; Persistens Fluor Compunds (PFC) from ski wax; Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) from fish (Baltic Sea); and Pestecides, Mirex from blanckets, carpet, madras. Many of the participants were very surprised to learn about the findings and interested to know more about persistent organic pollutants (POPs) – a group of toxic chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods of time, enter the food chain and bio‐accumulate and bio‐concentrate in the fatty tissues of humans and wildlife, and spread widely throughout the world through evaporation and rainfall. The workshop highlighted the need for everyone to work together - be it Governments, business and industry, civil society groups like women, youth and consumers - for a safe and sustainable planet free from toxic chemicals and waste. Stine will continue to spread the message by engaging athletes in the Safe Planet Athlete Initiative also.

Mountain Education (awareness)

The Youth Games being hosted in the Alpine region of Austria, UNEP is using this opportunity to educate young people on the endless opportunities and ecological values mountains provide in supporting and sustaining our lives be it being the major sources of fresh water, food, hydroelectricity, timber, and minerals. They are also home and a refuge to many plant and animal species.

One of UNEP´s be a champion for the environment posters that links global warming and snowboarding “if global warming turns the mountains to summer, where am I supposed to snowboard?” became a big attraction to showcase the link between sport and mountain ecosystems. As one member of the Austrian women hockey team puts it, although I play ice hockey indoors, if I want to do skiing, swimming in lakes, or hiking, climbing, rafting, canyoning, I really need an environment that is conducive to that. If our mountains are affected by global warming or other effects then I will not be able to do practice the sports I enjoy or the recreational values I get from them.

Green Economy and youth employment

The UNEP booth also displaying the green economy panel and many people were interested to know the work we do on the green economy. We had a lengthy discussion with the team from Spain who were interested how a green economy can create jobs for young people.

Photo Galleries | Innsbruck 2012 Olympics Website