Lausanne 2020 Youth Empowerment

Lausanne 2020 Youth Empowerment

©OIS/Jed Leicester
  • Olympic City: Lausanne
  • Country: Switzerland
  • Edition of the Games: Home of the IOC since 1915, 2020 Youth Olympic Winter Games

Description of the Project

Games created for the youth, by the youth and with the youth

The Lausanne 2020 YOG has always had the ambition to promote youth and develop talent and has set its sights on actively involving them in the organisation of the Games. The youth empowerment programme was conceived as a key element of commitment, which is necessary to ensure popular success.

This first commitment was therefore the centrepiece of Lausanne 2020’s operation. This resulted in the unprecedented activation of academic partners at all levels of education, public and private, allowing for the involvement of the youth not only on the field of the Games (the athletes), but also outside, where thousands of schoolchildren and students participated in the actual making of the project.

Ultimately, the involvement of youth in and around the Games is widely cited as one of the key elements in the popular success of Lausanne 2020. It was one of the central elements of the Lausanne 2020 communication strategy, which aimed to show the importance of the YOG as a vehicle for education.

As Virginie Faivre, President of Lausanne 2020 confirms, “It is simply magnificent to see the Youth Olympic Games come to life thanks to the young people of our region. Since the beginning of the Lausanne 2020 adventure, over 130,000 students have been involved in the organization of the Games – Games created for the youth, by the youth and with the youth.”

Lausanne en Jeux! Festival: the youth at the heart of the city

Featuring 8 city sites, 300+ activities, 18 sport initiations, many food and beverage spots, and more, the Lausanne en Jeux! Festival brought the worlds of sport and culture together through an exciting programme of events along with sports initiations, workshops, exhibitions, concerts and shows, all of which were open to the general public. They took place in the heart of Lausanne, highlighted by a special set-up in the city centre, and in many cultural venues across Lausanne as well.

Among the highlights of the festival was BodyCity – an original show combining video mapping, music, dance and urban sports, which told the story of the relationship between the city and the younger generation. The show featured 50 young artists and athletes, highlighting local art schools and sport performances, performed on a unique 300m2 skatepark in the Place Centrale, converted into a stage for the occasion. The 5 performances of the show attracted more than 11’000 people.

A variety of workshops covered activities such as skiing, curling, skeleton, street art and video game design, with professional instructors delivering programmes tailor-made for young people. The wide range of exhibitions included a special display at the Lausanne Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (MUDAC), which highlighted the cultural and social history of sports shoes. The eSpace Arlaud museum was transformed into a video games and digital fair play experience.

In total, the Lausanne en Jeux! Festival encompassed more than 300 events and brought together some 200’000 visitors/participants. Access to workshops, sports initiations, concerts and the BodyCity show were completely free of charge, offering a unique opportunity for young people to learn about winter sports and the connections between culture and sport.

The project was a means for Lausanne’s inhabitants and visitors to (re)discover the City and its many positive aspects, places, and opportunities. It was also a unifying project for the people involved in the conception, implementation and achievement such as City employees, students and volunteers.

As Grégoire Junod, Mayor of Lausanne said a few months after the Games, “The Olympic Capital is a city of sport and culture. The Youth Olympic Games were an opportunity to bring this together, resulting in this wonderful festival of sport and culture. Since then, the world has changed, but these Games have shown us that we need to live and enjoy shared emotions together.”

Winter YOG Athlete Ambassadors

As an integral element of previous YOGs, athlete ambassadors were present at venues, at ceremonies and around the village to mentor and enrich the overall experience for the young athletes. There were 14 Lausanne 2020 athlete ambassadors, including French Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Cristobal Huet, Swiss ski cross star Fanny Smith and French Nordic combined Olympic champion Jason Lamy-Chappuis. “The goal of Lausanne 2020 is to reveal talent, create synergies, involve thousands of young people and put together a true celebration,” said Virginie Faivre, President of the YOG Organising Committee.
To promote the Olympic spirit throughout Switzerland and neighbouring France, Lausanne 2020 brought together a pool of high-level Olympic athletes who hold and endorse Olympic values, and who inspire the next generation of athletes. During the Games, these athletes acted as Ambassadors and shared their experience with the young athletes. Lausanne 2020 and Paris 2024 collaborated on this very topic of youth engagement, with French school children invited to Lausanne’s Olympic Museum to meet and converse with Olympians.

Rooted in Lausanne 2020’s drive to foster a renewed ownership of the Olympic values among local youth, it’s fair to say that the idea of YOG “for youth, by youth and with youth” became a reality at this third edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games.


Empowering, inspiring and engaging youth was the central mission of the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games. The ambition was to value and empower youth by enabling them to become ambassadors of the positive values of sport, to acquire new talents and to achieve fulfillment by becoming tomorrow’s leaders. This could be achieved by making the YOG a laboratory of innovation, an incubator of ideas for the youth by the youth, and by drawing on Switzerland’s unique heritage and assets in terms of education, culture and innovation.

Celebrate Olympism and its Values

The third edition of the Winter YOG brought together nearly 1,880 athletes between the ages of 15 and 18, with a perfect balance of 33 events for each gender.

What better ambassadors than youth athletes to promote and celebrate Olympic values with the youth of Lausanne, the country, and the world? The Youth Olympic Games are not just about sport – they are also about bringing together young athletes from across the globe and enabling them to create friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. The Lausanne 2020 motto, “Start now”, was conceived as an encouragement for young people around the world to pursue their dreams.

Develop human capital and generate social cohesion

The Olympic Games are an opportunity to develop skills and know-how and to incorporate these benefits into society at large. The Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) were acclaimed for several innovative concepts, one of them being the significant involvement of young people in the preparation and delivery of the event. Around 130,000 students from local schools, colleges and universities contributed their talents towards making the 3rd Winter YOG a success.

Their achievements and contributions to the Games include the following:

  • the Olympic cauldron, the medal trays as well as the podiums were all designed by students from ECAL, the Art School of Lausanne, and produced by apprentices at the EDC Construction School and C-FOR (Lausanne Utilities Training Centre);
  • the mascot, pictograms and the visual identity of Lausanne 2020 were created by students from ERACOM, a regional school for art and communications;
  • students from the cantonal engineering school HEIG helped to develop the Olympic cauldron’s eco-friendly flame combustion system;
  • the official Games’ song and the music for the awards ceremonies were composed by students from Lausanne’s music academy (HEMU);
  • students from EHL, one of the most renowned hotel schools globally, studied the benefits of sports nutrition, with specific focus on a personalised approach towards nutrition that athletes can use during the Youth Olympic Games. During the Games, these students were located at the Vortex centre, where the 1,880 athletes slept and ate, in order to share their expertise on nutrition;
  • another group of EHL students worked on various programmes for the YOG volunteers in order to enhance their experience;
  • students from another local school (HESSO) and from EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne) worked on temporary modular spaces that could be set up at the competition sites in order to provide certain services and to expand the educational experience at those venues;
  • EPFL students studied the transportation methods and housing to be used for the Olympic athletes in order to help optimise organisational aspects;
  • Students also assisted in delivering a comprehensive educational programme for the YOG athletes, developed jointly by the Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, the University of Lausanne (UNIL) and EPFL.
  • Schoolchildren decorated the Olympic Village with drawings cantered on the theme of the Olympics.




Figures speak for themselves:

Youth Olympic Games: 640,000 spectators (including 350,000 for the sports competitions alone).

Lausanne en Jeux! Festival of sport and culture: 200,000+ people (including 21,000+ schoolchildren experienced an Olympic event from the inside for the first time).

Online, Lausanne 2020 was a major success as well: coverage of the event on and the Olympic platforms (Olympic Channel and attracted more than three million unique users during the 13 days of competition. The content generated 66 million views on the Olympic platforms and on social media, approximately 25 times more than the previous edition of the YOG. The various Olympic social media platforms generated more than 450,000 new followers thanks to Lausanne 2020. There was also a significant increase in TV broadcasting. The YOG were watched by an estimated audience of more than 150 million people worldwide. In particular, the opening ceremony on 9 January was broadcast live on the three Swiss national channels. On RTS in French-speaking Switzerland, it achieved a high market share of 25%.

Beyond the more than satisfactory figures, excellent results were evidenced in the value of the many talents (mascot, look of the Games, pictograms, cauldron, medals, official song, visual shows, etc…) mobilised for the Games. Additionally, these talents were on display in R&D in the field of sport, health, promotion of physical activity, and performances through a unique academic collaboration with professional schools and universities. Thousands of young people improved their skills and gained valuable experience.


Key Challenges


TIME is key in empowering the youth

In order to ensure a sustainable legacy which – in the case of the 2020 YOG – includes a large part of youth empowerment, legacy must be thought of as a starting point and not as a result of the Games themselves. Youth empowerment de facto implies time and a long-term vision. It includes the discovery of talents, the development of technical or management skills, the training of volunteers, and valuing the work achieved for and during the Games such as: design and look of the Games, artistic performances, journalism and reporting, management, volunteering, teaching Olympic values at school, etc. A few examples of youth empowerment conceived for the locals as well as for the athletes are available below.

School children: All schools (ages 4 – 16) in the Canton were visited. More than 130,000 schoolchildren became involved in a project related to the Games and Olympic values in the 4 years preceding the Games. 79% of schools developed projects. After four years of work based on incorporating the Olympic values, winter sports and Lausanne 2020 into the school programmes, some 80,000 schoolchildren were able to experience the event they had been anticipating. A unique programme was concocted for the school children, giving them the opportunity to visit the different host venues to cheer on the athletes and also to see the competitions in sports they had studied and tried out before the YOG (sometimes with Olympians who visited their classes). These school outings included an educational activity (sports introductions, visits to a museum, etc.) as part of Lausanne en Jeux! At each venue, they could participate in YOG competitions, use free public transport, and sometimes have the chance to rub shoulders with the Youth Olympic athletes. For the schoolchildren, this programme was the culmination of their work and the chance to see the application of the work they had done in the years leading up to the Games.

YOG Athletes: The Athlete 365 Education Programme included five activities and two events set up by Lausanne 2020, the IOC, the International Federations, and their partners. Together with its academic partners (EPFL, CHUV, HESAV), the IOC and INSEP, UNIL contributed to the development and implementation of the Athlete 365 Education Programme. This rich programme allowed 1,784 athletes from 79 countries to learn more about many areas: training advice based on performance tests, prevention of abuse and concussion in sport, meeting with champions, media management and many other activities.

With a limited budget, build upon what already exists 

The budget was clearly limited for youth empowerment projects, although the ambition was high! The organisers decided to strategically build upon what already existed: a very strong local educational fabric; a lively cultural environment; talented know-how in craft and skilled manual trade jobs; a wide range of highly qualified professional schools in specific areas (design, hotel and catering, arts, etc.); and world-leading universities.

As opposed to only providing the possibility of being a spectator/consumer of a once-in-a life event, the youth engagement programme allowed thousands of children and students to become key participants in the staging of the Olympics! “That’s why we’ve been working with schools since 2016, to make students and apprentices part of the Games through several sporting and educational projects and activities”, explained Stefany Chatelain-Cardenas, Lausanne 2020’s Youth Engagement Director. And once youth have some ownership of the event, it makes it even easier to convince families and friends to come and participate. This is also part of the popular success, as children and students were powerful information spreaders!


Key Learnings & Recommendations


The processes of youth engagement in the making of the event were tested and key lessons were learned. These were discussed at several debriefings between partners after the Games. The existing “International Sport” platform of the Olympic Capital will be responsible for continuing to bring these synergies to life for future events in the region and the country.

The YOG have to be conceived as an investment in the Youth

The success of the YOG should not be measured in the light of media coverage or budgetary results. Although very successful, the YOG 2020 remain a sport competition for junior athletes which cannot be compared to the Olympic Games in terms of world media coverage. Although positive, the budget result is not an issue either. As such, “the Youth Olympic Games don’t attract extraordinary amounts of money in TV rights or sponsoring. They generate social dividends,” explains Philippe Furrer from InspoweredBy.

The YOG should be conceived and assessed as an investment in the youth, not only for the young athletes, but also for the youth of a city, a region and a country. Thanks to the Games, the city, and the Canton of Vaud, as well as the other Olympic sites in St. Moritz and in France, schoolchildren and students of all ages mobilised around various projects to empower the youth at all stages of their lives, from school to apprenticeship or during academic studies.

The strength of sport, the youth, and the Olympic brand

For 10 years and since the beginning of the YOG adventure, every edition has shown increased mobilisation, fervour, enthusiasm and popularity. The Lausanne edition managed to mobilise a large portion of the population. All competitions were held in front of a crowded audience, not only in Lausanne’s venues but also in all Olympic sites in the mountains. It is true that the YOG benefited from sunny and cold winter weather, but this is not enough to explain such popular success for the Games themselves but for the Festival as well. Bringing together sport, youth and Olympism is a winning combination that reaches a large audience – the Youth and far beyond.



More information


The full case is available in printable version on the members’ portal

In addition to the above description, the PDF version also gathers practical information including internal and external partners involved; finance and cost; use of the olympic brand; human resources and time; and contact details. 

The World Union of Olympic Cities’ team remains at your disposal for any further information and contact’s facilitation at 

Additional resources can be found through the following links:

Presentation by Stefany Châtelain-Cardenas, Smart Cities & Sport Summit 2020,

Bilan de Lausanne 2020 – Alors, décus en bien ?, Philippe Furrer, (in French)