“the Olympic agenda cannot be mathematized”

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The postponement of the Youth Olympic Games to 2026 may have been surprising. How did we come to this decision? It is proof of the strength of the Olympic movement and of teamwork. All the working hypotheses were on the table: continue, not continue …

The only inconceivable hypothesis was the cancellation because it is a first in Africa. The President of the Republic had several videoconferences with Lausanne (IOC Headquarters) where we tested the pros and cons.

The only possible date was 2026 because all the dates are occupied: Tokyo has been postponed to 2021, the Winter Games in China in 2022, it has the Olympics in Paris in 2024 and those of LA in 2028. That allows up to the State to redeploy its participation in the fight against Covid.

Was this postponement of four years imposed by Macky Sall?

Not at all, the IOC is a completely independent institution. All the National Olympic Committees of Africa and the World do not depend on the Ministries of Sport but on Lausanne. Everything was agreed with the videoconference and obviously with the team here in Senegal.

Four years, that means that there will be 8 years between the choice of Senegal and the date of the event. It’s a lot…
The Olympic agenda cannot be mathematized. 2020 is a parenthesis. 2021 will be a year of adjustment in economic, social and sporting terms. Everything was out of order, even the international federations. Imagine Roland Garros was moved to September, the legendary Wimbledon canceled outright. We must start counting from 2022.

Us, that gives us the possibility of associating even more the populations of the interior in our Olympic project. As this is a first in Africa and also a post-Covid first, we cannot fail to think hard and be successful.

Is there a political motivation behind this decision?

The Olympic movement is completely apolitical. But whether in The Gambia, China, or the United States, you cannot put the leaders aside.

There is inevitably a participation of the State for safety, cleanliness, a certain number of sovereign positions. So we work in symbiosis and the Senegalese President loves sport. He visited us in Lausanne, ditto for Barack Obama or the French and Chinese presidents.

What about the infrastructure, bearing in mind that the laying of the first stone of the Olympic Stadium in Diamniadio took place last year and that certain enclosures such as the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium had to be renovated?

The first plan we had and which won us over in Argentina was to redo the existing one. The President undoubtedly wanted to give a nice gift to the sporting community as a whole, Olympic or non-Olympic, with the erection of a large stadium.

It allows us to “compete” for the CAN or the World Cup if by having the necessary receptives like hotels, we pool ourselves with other countries like Côte d’Ivoire for example. The duration of the work is around 17 months and the company that takes care of that has returned the Dakar Arena to us on time.

This stadium worthy of international standards is not even in our program or our application file but it is welcome. If it ends, there is no reason that it does not fit into our project. Sport is the safe haven in this world.

Did the pandemic delay the project?

I will surprise you but no. Almost every fortnight, before Covid, an IOC mission came on site and the report feedback was always positive for Senegal. This means that the teams did the job and I take this opportunity to congratulate the approximately 130 volunteer-experts who accompanied us.

For young athletes who were preparing for 2022, it is still a blow in the back of the head …
No I do not agree. Young people are the fixed parameter, our core target for its YOG. Everything else is variable.

What we found as plan B are the Lesotho Games (scheduled for 2022). And it will be necessary that we succeed) find by 2026 an activity to furnish with the youth of the country or even neighboring countries in order to have a kind of trial run and to maintain this flame. Finally, in 2028, these young people will have reached their majority and will be able to aim for the Los Angeles Olympics.

In Tokyo, there is talk of making the Olympic Games smaller in 2021 than the event envisaged in the first place. Will it be the same for the Dakar YOG?

I don’t think there will be fewer athletes but maybe less people and spectators. If tomorrow a vaccine is discovered, it reshuffles the cards. They plan to review the conditions of access to Japanese territory which is normal even we would have imposed it. But the athletes remain the heart of the target.

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