On the spot

 Barthélemy Dias, 

Mayor of Dakar, Sénégal

The City of Dakar is about to inaugurate its brand new public skatepark. This facility is part of the preparation as well as the philosophy of the Youth Olympic Games, which the City of Dakar will host in 2026. What does this milestone on the road to the Games represent, both symbolically and practically?  

Dakar is a great cultural capital but is also a true sports city. All of the successive mayors have worked hard for its international influence in order to make it an attractive city in the cultural and sports sectors. Because of its geographical position and its history, Dakar has always been a pioneer in sports and cultural innovation. This project of constructing the first public skatepark is part of a larger programme entitled La Place des Cultures Urbaines (PCU) which aims to be a crossroads between culture and sport, but also an appropriation of public space by culture and sport. This project is defined as a link between the 19 communes of Dakar and beyond. As a prelude to the 2026 Youth Olympic Games, the City of Dakar seeks to be more ambitious by not only being a land of games or a hospitable place, but a modern city. This aim implies further investments in the economy of the future by offering a unique place to Senegalese professionals registered in the field of Skateboarding and Breaking. These two recently added Olympic disciplines will see strong Senegalese representation in Paris 2024 and Dakar 2026.  

The Skatepark is designed to be a hub of social diversity and will participate in the democratisation of sports and cultural practice by providing, in addition to the Skatepark, a concert stage, a restaurant, and a Dance House (currently in phase 2).  

We are three years away from the Dakar 2026 Youth Olympic Games, and La Place des Cultures Urbaines will be made available to the Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (OCYOG) to host the second, third, and fourth editions of the Dakar en Jeux festival. 

Urban sport is a formidable tool for mobilising youth as well as an instrument for appropriating public space. What place does the city give to these sports and to its youth, and how does it intend to structure its public spaces so that sport finds its place in combination with health, education, urban planning, culture, etc. policies?  

The City of Dakar has co-initiated two projects in the sports sector in partnership with the cities of Paris and Evry Courcouronnes: the Breaking project and the IMPULS project. The Breaking project and the IMPULS project are both ways of rethinking sports policies so that they are closer to the people. By giving them an inclusive and participatory character, the Breaking and IMPULS projects actively participate in the mobilisation of Dakar’s youth for better well-being and access to sports for all.   

Within the framework of the Dakar Binu Bokk program (the Dakar that we share), the City of Dakar is resolutely committed to the construction of new sports buildings, such as the new municipal field in Grand-Yoff and the restoration of the synthetic turf on the field in Dieupeul, in addition to the renovation of spaces to ensure a better living environment. These health, education, urban planning and cultural policies all have cross-cutting dimensions and must converge towards a single objective: the renewal of Dakar. 

Dakar will be the first African city to host an Olympic experience, which represents an opportunity for the city and the country, and at the same time requires significant commitment at all levels. What is it like to be the first city in Africa to host such an event?  

Dakar will become the first African city to host an Olympic event of this dimension. It is an historical moment which requires a lot of preparation. All of the concerned services in the City of Dakar are being mobilised to provide a warm welcome for the 4,000 athletes as well as the delegations from the many world sports authorities. Known for its hospitality, the City of Dakar will be working alongside the country of Senegal to ensure exemplary organisation and strong participation from all walks of life including youth, women students, professionals, and amateurs. Being the first African city to host the Olympic Games requires the mobilisation of hundreds of volunteers and with the city’s volunteer department, Dakar will not be left behind. Sport remains the focus of the Dakar 2026 Youth Olympic Games, but a vast program of cultural entertainment will soon be unveiled by the city. For two weeks, Dakar will be buzzing with the Olympic rhythms thanks to all the flourishing artistic talent in the Senegalese capital. In 2026, the new motto of the City of Dakar will be: “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together”. 

Given the magnitude of the Games, what is the coordination process between the city, the country, the NOC, and the IOC?   

The City of Dakar is a founding member of the Organizing Committee of the Dakar 2026 Youth Olympic Games, as a signatory of the constitutive act during the February 28, 2020 Constitutive General Assembly.  As such, I participate in the work of the General Assembly concurrently with the President of the CNOSS (Senegalese National Olympic and Sports Committee), the current President of the OCYOG, the Minister of Finance and Budget, and the Minister of Sports (these last two representing the state). The ordinary General Assembly took place in February 2023.  Thus, because of the City of Dakar’s full involvement in the preparation and organisation of the Dakar 2026 YOG, it is expected that the city will be represented on several levels:  

  • At the institutional level, the Mayor of the City participates in the meetings of the General Assembly and in the framework of regular bilateral exchanges with the President of the CNOSS/OCYOG (Mamadou Diagna Ndiaye), to agree on the policies;  
  • At the strategic level, a representative, designated by the Mayor of the City will participate in the meetings of the technical committee in charge of ruling on certain strategic or operational subjects outside of the General Assembly and prepare the meetings of the General Assembly. This representative must be able to represent the policies of the City of Dakar and present them during the meetings. He will be well-informed on these policies due to their proximity to the Mayor of the City.  
  • At the operational level, the Director of Sports for the City of Dakar has been representing the city and participating in the preparation of the YOG with a focus on the daily coordination and entertainment activities.   
  •  Finally, at the functional level, the City of Dakar will be represented through the participation, depending on the case, by other city departments in the meetings of specific working groups (legal, roads, culture and tourism, health, etc.). 

How is the City preparing: for the YOG, for itself, for its citizens, and for the world? 

The City of Dakar, through the Directorate of Sports, Youth and Associative Life (DSJA), provides support to all federations through their respective leagues by offering subsidies and by increasing sports activities in schools and neighbourhoods. Additionally, the City of Dakar is engaged in raising awareness of Olympic values.  The City has signed many agreements at the national and international levels with partners aiding in the creation of sports and cultural infrastructures. 

One of the fundamental elements of hosting major events is the preparation and long-term development of a legacy. What are the areas developed by the City of Dakar in terms of Olympic legacy?   

The organisation of the Dakar 2026 YOG in exceptional conditions will have long-term positive consequences, in terms of impact and legacy. The results will be evaluated through the capacity of the YOG to influence the trajectory of the country’s transformation.  Dakar, Senegal and Africa are well known for the roles they play in different dimensions in the world. Through the youth, the YOG will help participants from all over the world discover other facets of the country and the continent.  

The first edition of the Dakar en Jeux festival held from October 29th to November 5th, 2022, in Dakar, Diamnianio, and Saly, brought together Sport and Culture. More than fifteen thousand young students, sportsmen, cultural actors, and actors from the associative movement came together around the spirit and values of Olympism.  Indeed, the success of this first edition led to the decision of the Organizing Committee of the Youth Olympic Games (OCYOG) and the IOC to make it an event which will be celebrated until 2026, as an annual Olympic rendez-vous.   

The City of Dakar is a member of the World Union of Olympic Cities. What do you expect from the Union and how do you wish to contribute to the Union?  

The City of Dakar, as the Host City of the Youth Olympic Games, is the main actor in the preparation and organisation of the YOG. As a member of the World Union of Olympic Cities, the City of Dakar is delighted to be able to benefit from the experience of other Olympic Cities and to share its own, particularly through reciprocal visits, to find funding for projects and to build lasting partnerships on the sporting and cultural level, as well as on Olympic legacy issues.