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I t is one of the most pressing issues of our times - especially where the developed world is concerned: on the one hand, declines in physical activity; on the other, escalating rates of obesity. Worryingly, this trend is making itself felt among the very youngest members of our society - most notably teenagers, who are dropping out of sports activities in significant numbers. Theories abound as to the cause of this phenomenon. Television, social networking sites and computer games, for example, are all jostling for the attention of a young audience, at the risk of pushing sport ever further into the sidelines. Interestingly, though, while some see the world of multimedia as a root cause of children's increasingly sedentary lifestyles, others argue that digital technology has a role to play in promoting sport to young people. For example, could popular sport-themed video games, such as Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, published by Sega in association with the IOC, actually encourage young people to lead more active lives? Clearly, the exact nature of what is causing so many youngsters to turn their back on sport merits considered and open- minded investigation. It can be argued that competitive sport may help steer young participants away from some of the less savoury temptations endemic in 21st- century society. As such, perhaps the social and education values of sport should occupy a more integral role in international education systems. By extension, given that not every student can be an outstanding athlete, there may be an argument for attaching greater importance to participation in - rather than winning at - sport in our schools and colleges. The Olympic Movement recognises that it is only by appreciating the younger generation's mindset and current perception of sport that appropriate ? OLYMPIC REVIEW49 OLYMPIC CONGRESS LeftThe Olympic Movement faces the challenge of combating the decline in the number of young people participating in sport around the world Jason Chatfield THEME 4

50OLYMPIC REVIEW OLYMPIC CONGRESS courses of action can be explored. This means gaining an understanding of which sports are currently most appealing to young people, and why, and then working out how best to foster competitive sport for all. So, exploring how clubs and federations can attract and keep youngsters in competitive sport, and considering whether or not existing administrative frameworks for supporting young people's involvement in competitive sport are working hard enough. As part of the process of understanding the exact nature of the young people/ competitive sports dynamic, the role of sports events also merits investigation. It could be argued that sports events should meet young peoples' highest expectations if they are to promote not just physical activity and competition, but also the latter's personal and social benefits. The IOC has moved to address this issue by setting up the Youth Olympic Games ( YOG) - the first edition of which takes place in Singapore next year. The Games will mix elite competition with educating the young athletes in Olympic values, healthy lifestyle and social responsibility. " We hope to reach as many kids as possible so we can encourage them to play more sport and play it in the right way," says IOC Executive Director of Olympic Games, Gilbert Felli. As well as appealing to a younger audience through the addition of new variations of Olympic sports, such as 3- on- 3 street basketball, the YOG should also include appropriate measures to respect the physical, social and mental development of their young participants. Today's youth are tomorrow's Olympians; it is only by appealing to them that the Games and the values of Olympism can continue to flourish. ¦ How do you see the role of sport and of the Olympic Movement in today's society? It is obvious that in most societies sports mobilise entire communities and nations like no other human activitiy. A nation takes special pride in a great soccer player like Cristiano Ronaldo as it would in a music icon like Michael Jackson - more than they would in regards to a scientist who working alone in a lab developed a vaccine against a major illness. Are there possible synergies between sport and all other activities carried out in favour of the youth in the world, particularly in developing countries? Sports stars like Cristiano Ronaldo should invest more of their time and energy in inspiring youth into studying and excelling in school, rejecting drugs and alcohol, in being compassionate and respectful, in being tolerant of all peoples of all cultures and religions. We can launch sports programmes that support non- violence and peace, for instance. In my own country, this August we are launching the biggest, most challenging mountain bicycle race ever; a 450km race through some of the most rugged and spectacular mountain regions of East Timor. The competition is called Race for Peace, part of my own efforts to enhance a culture of non- violence and peace in my country. What can be the concrete contribution of sport to mitigate problems children are facing? Sports can be used as a tool to inspire children to live a healthy life, to acquire healthier eating habits, to stay away from drugs, alcohol and violence. How can sport and the Olympic Movement ensure it stays relevant to the youth of the world? What role should sport play in the education system? Sports should be a compulsory subject in every school, everywhere, as a healthy body and a healthy mind are a pre- requisite for a child to succeed and excell in school and in life. What are the main reasons for the decline in the physical activity and participation in sport in young people in developed countries? I believe the decline in physical activity and participation in sport in young people in developed countries has to do with cuts in education budget, in policies at highest levels, that do not give enough emphasis to sports in education particularly in poor communities in the rich countries. " THE IOC HAS MOVED TO ADDRESS THE ISSUE BY SETTING UP THE YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES ( YOG) - THE FIRST EDITION OF WHICH TAKES PLACE IN SINGAPORE NEXT YEAR. THE GAMES WILL MIX ELITE COMPETITION WITH EDUCATING THE YOUNG ATHLETES IN OLYMPIC VALUES, HEALTHY LIFESTYLE AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY" JOSÉ RAMOS- HORTA, PRESIDENT OF TIMOR- LESTE AND NOBEL PEACE PRIZE RECIPIENT