To get youngsters around the world active during the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and multiple other sport organisations have partnered with United Through Sports to launch the 2020 World Virtual Youth Festival.
More than 60 organisations including the IOC, IPC and Special Olympics are supporting the event which will invite youngsters from under 18 years to take part in online qualification events in October. Winners from the qualification events will progress to the online finals that will be hosted in Thailand between 20-22 November to coincide with the United Nations World Children’s Day.
The festival will include youths not only from participating International Federations, but also from migrant and refugee backgrounds, from the indigenous community and from vulnerable backgrounds who are often marginalised by society.
The festival will include virtual medal ceremonies, inspirational opening and closing ceremonies and will incorporate a vital platform of education by including an opening conference, panel discussions and workshops. Topics of focus will include: Peace through sport, Inclusion and non-discrimination, Athletes’ roles and responsibilities, Safeguarding and child protection among others. Over 100 youth ambassadors, together with the leaders of sport and all participating entities will make a unified call to action towards a more inclusive and better tomorrow.
IPC qualification event
The IPC ‘Inclusive Sports’ Challenge will be open to everyone. Therefore, rather than setting youngsters a specific exercise routine, participants will be invited to create their own.
The IPC will stage its qualification event between 7 and 21 October 2020.
To enter the IPC qualification event, youngsters divided into two categories from under 12s and under 18 years old as of 20 November 2020, will need to film themselves performing an exercise routine of their choice for 60 seconds maximum.
Once they have finished the routine, they need to spend 45 seconds to the camera explaining their motivation to participate in this challenge and what world leaders need to do to create a more accessible and inclusive future for all people. This could be part of the same video or a second one.
Finalised videos should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org together with the UTS Parental Individual Consent Form signed.
The deadline for all entries is 23:59 CEST on 21 October 2020.
To encourage participation, exercise routines of several leading Para athletes will be shared on social media during the qualification period.
Ecuador’s 17-year-old athletics world and Parapan Am champion Kiara Rodriguez and Uganda’s 13-year-old swimmer Husnah Kukundakwe will act as IPC’s Young Para Athlete Ambassadors.
A panel of seven judges made up of Para athletes, Paralympic leaders and disability advocates will review all entries.
Andy Stevenson (GBR): Broadcast journalist with a disability who has covered three Paralympic Games and is the main presenter on IPC podcast “A Winning Mindset”.
Angélica Bernal (COL): Lima 2019 Parapan Am champion in wheelchair tennis who helped start ‘Semillas sin Barreras’ that teaches kids in her home country how to play the sport.
Deepa Malik (IND): India’s first female athlete to win a Paralympic medal by taking home silver in the shot put is now the President of the Indian Paralympic Committee. Received the IPC’s International Women’s Day Recognition in 2019.
Ezra Frech (USA): Won three medals at the 2019 World Para Athletics Junior Championships, including one gold, and two silvers at the 2019 Parapan American Games. Disability rights advocate, motivational speaker and co-founder of Angel City Sports, which produces Angel City Games, an adaptive sports festival for youths and adults in the USA.
Fiona Allan (NZL): CEO of Paralympics New Zealand who has led the organisation to pursue excellence and equality through sport.
George Wyndhman (SLE): Sierra Leone’s table tennis player and Rio 2016 Paralympic flagbearer, and disability advocate.
Maha Bargouthi (JOR): Paralympic champion in table tennis and winner of the International Women’s Day Recognition Award for Next Generation Leader category. She is currently the Secretary General of NPC Jordan.
When reviewing the videos, judges will be looking for creativity within the exercise routine, how well it is performed, the youngsters’ motivation to participate and the content of the message to world leaders.
Judges will then have between 22-28 October 2020 to review the entries and choose which five participants from each of the two age categories progress to the finals, with those advancing informed soon after.
The winners will be announced on 20 November during the UTS World Virtual Youth Festival.
Strong cast of supporters
The festival is under the patronage of the IOC, the IPC, Special Olympics, SportAccord and the Global Association of International Sports Federations. Many International Federations, global NGO’s and sport affiliated entities are uniting to showcase, demonstrate and promote inclusion, equality, non-discrimination and peace-promotion. The United Through Sports Virtual Youth Festival 2020 is a celebration of our youth who will carry the torch of life for the next generations, and on this platform everybody is equal.
IPC President Andrew Parsons said: “Never has sport and the need to remain active being as important as it is now during the global COVID-19 pandemic due to the physical and mental health benefits it brings. The IPC through its patronage fully supports this innovative festival that will engage youngsters of all abilities around the world and keep them active during this difficult time.”
IOC President Dr Thomas Bach said: “The current coronavirus crisis has proven that sport and an active lifestyle can save lives. With its own campaigns, the IOC has been working since the beginning of the crisis to make it even more evident how important sport is for physical and mental health, in particular in times of lockdown, social distancing and uncertainty. The IOC is excited that the UTS Virtual Youth Festival 2020 is inviting youth of all abilities and backgrounds from the international sports community. We have given patronage to the UTS Virtual Youth Festival 2020 and will also play an active part.”
Mary Davis, CEO of Special Olympics stated: “On behalf of our over six million Special Olympics athletes, we are delighted to grant patronage and applaud the effort of UTS to demonstrate the power of inclusive sport for all. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Special Olympics halted all training and competitions for 2020, however are excited and we fully support the United Through Sports Virtual Youth Festival 2020 as being especially important for our athletes, to remain active, connected and certainly included. May this Festival be the first of many more inclusive events to come.”
With the finals being held on United Nations World Children’s Day, the former 8th UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon said: “We all face challenges amidst the pandemic global shift. Now is the time we must think forward and we must take action towards empowering our youth towards the future.
"This UTS Virtual Youth Festival is a unique opportunity for youth of all abilities to unite through the digital ecosystem in friendship, sports, health and education. United, we must stand for youth rights ensuring equality and the inclusion of all youth. This Festival will open many new doors of opportunity for us to reach youth all over the world. Let us reach them together.”
“During such unprecedented and challenging times, we must continue to create opportunities, putting the youth of the world at centre stage,” stated United Through Sports President Stephan Fox. “We must also understand that for many vulnerable youth, once the pandemic ends, they will continue to live in lock down and in challenging environments. We want to create an event that is active and educational for all our youth and regardless to who is up on the podium, the closing ceremony will see the youth of the world come together for one global celebration.”