Not only did the opening day of the judo event get off to a sensational start, with an electric atmosphere and some of our most talented youth demonstrating impeccable judo, but we were honoured to welcome both our own EJU President, Dr László TÓTH, and the EOC President, Mr Spyros CAPRALOS.
It was with great delight that we hosted the EOC President in the final block on day one, as he was able to witness the sport in all of its glory, demonstrating the values that integrate so well with that of the European Youth Olympic Festival message of friendship and unity. Dr Tóth was delighted with the first day of competition and to host our special guests.
I’m very glad and very proud of this event, and for this team. It has been a perfect combination between the LOC and our EJU team. It was not so easy because this competition and altogether the Festival started three years ago with its first steps, but the results are excellent, we need more of these competitions and the chances for our young athletes. This is a very good decision from the EOC, unfortunately the other continents did not go ahead with this type of event, only their continental championships, so our athletes have a great opportunity here.
Today I had a full programme, first in accreditation, then taking lunch with the athletes and you can see how big an organisation this is, over 5500 invited here, together with 1200 volunteers which also includes many judoka. This is the power of the competition because we also have the same category for the cadet European championships but this experience gives the younger generation the chance to feel the Olympic ideals, the Olympic solidarity and the meaning of the flag. For me, one of the nicest moments is to see the athletes from other countries come together and exchange their national pins, always looking for the exciting ones! I had this exact same experience in my first Olympics, always looking for the special pins, and it brought back wonderful memories. The atmosphere is really unbelievable and so special, I feel the full impact of it and I know they do too.
For us today it was such an honour to welcome the EOC President, Spyros Capralos and the EOC General Treasurer, Peter Mennel, I think they have a great respect for our sport and although we have competition with other sports, we are in a stable position in the next EYOF. This is important to us and I’m sure the president of the EOC was also feeling the magic in the finals, what we have created together with coaches and athletes.
The spectators, they are not only judoka, they are coming from other sports to support their team mates. I believe our judoka are also visiting to all of the other sports and this is a very nice aspect of this event, that everyone is in the same place and can come together to see each other. They can share this feeling as countries, not just within the sport. You saw this with the Dutch teams and Azerbaijan today, a very positive feeling was had.
EOC President, Spyros Capralos is also excited to see the fruits of labour from the local organising committees as well as all of the sports organisations that have pulled together to create such a memorable event for so many.
We are very happy to have this event here in Banská Bystrica because it brings together 48 national Olympic committees from all around Europe in a friendly atmosphere. The young people really enjoy what they do, you see the enthusiasm all the time, not only when they compete, but also outside. It is a completely different feeling than what you have in a big competition with all the other competitors. It gives them the opportunity to experience this multiport event, to learn how it is to live with other athletes from other disciplines from the same countries.
Also we have a programme with 22 ambassadors to teach about the ideals, values, and principles of the Olympic movement and what sport brings to their lives. This is the educational part which I think is equally important for those young athletes.
We are always looking ahead, always with the organisers in mind, we are speaking with them. In addition to the core sports we have, we suggest perhaps to bring in a couple more sports that the organiser wants and has the facilities for because we don’t want them to spend money building new ones so it is something we will see going forward. Also, which ones are most popular for these young athletes, which they find most interesting and entertaining.
I think they are so happy to be back, we saw it here in judo, the stadium was full of people and enthusiasm, it’s so important for everyone to be together, not just the athletes but all of us, we are so happy about this. In less than six months we have the winter EYOF and next year in Maribor, Slovenia, again the summer even, so many great things are coming for these young athletes.
It is only the second day of the European Youth Olympic Festival, but already there is so much to celebrate from many sports and we are excited to see what the rest of the week holds.
Author: Thea Cowen