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Dakar en Jeux festival set to bring Youth Olympic spirit to Senegal

The second edition of the Dakar en Jeux festival gets underway today. It will bring a week of celebration of sport and culture to the host areas of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Dakar 2026 – the first Olympic event on the African continent. This second edition will run until 4 November 2023.

Following the success of last year’s inaugural festival, which saw thousands of people participate in sports initiations and demonstrations, music concerts and cultural activities, the 2023 edition will see an even greater focus on bringing sport and the Olympic spirit to Senegalese communities in the lead-up to Dakar 2026. Events will take place in the YOG host areas of Dakar, Diamniadio and Saly.

Tens of thousands of spectators and 2,000 athletes are expected to take part in the five-day festival, which is a key engagement initiative of the Dakar 2026 Organising Committee (YOGOC) and is aimed at promoting the upcoming YOG while also engaging local youth, promoting physical activity and raising awareness about the values of the Olympic Movement.

Kirsty Coventry, the Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for Dakar 2026, said: “After the great success of the inaugural edition in 2022, Dakar is gearing up for another celebration and lots of excitement, as we look forward to the Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026. Dakar en Jeux isn’t just about showcasing sports; it’s also about embracing the values of the Youth Olympic Games, and building bridges between communities. People will have the opportunity to witness incredible athletes, experience the thrill of competition, and connect with like-minded individuals who share their passion for sport and culture.”

The festival programme has been created by and for young people and is being delivered by the YOGOC in partnership with the Senegalese Olympic Committee, the city of Dakar, the cities of Diamniadio and Saly, the Senegalese government and the International Olympic Committee.

The festival is set to begin today, 31 October, with an opening ceremony at the iconic Monument de la Renaissance Africaine in Dakar. This marks three years to go until the start of the YOG Dakar 2026. The ceremony will see all 46 departments and 14 regions of Senegal come together to showcase their traditional dances and costumes, underlining the YOGOC’s vision to involve the whole of the host nation in the YOG.

Kenyan Olympic medallist and IOC Member Paul Tergat, who is the ambassador for this edition of Dakar en Jeux, said: “I’m honoured to be the ambassador for this second edition, Dakar en Jeux 2023, and it is great to see the evolution compared with the first edition. With new sports added to the programme of the festival, whether as initiations or competitions, it means even more young people are involved in sport.”

The festival programme also features various sports events, workshops and performances, including concerts, poetry slams and street art demonstrations, where a fresco focusing on the Olympic values will be painted by local graffiti artists. Sports competitions and initiations are also part of the programme, including a special urban day, offering people the chance to discover sports such as rollerblading, BMX and skateboarding.

In addition to events in Dakar, the city of Diamniadio will also be in the spotlight, hosting athletics and futsal competitions, as well as a series of concerts by young artists.

Saly, meanwhile, will have beach handball and beach volleyball initiations and a beach wrestling competition, along with other sporting activities at Obama Beach. The city will also wrap up the festivities with a closing ceremony, featuring a blend of music and dance performances.

The Dakar en Jeux festival is set to take place each year in the build-up to the YOG Dakar 2026, which will be held from 31 October to 13 November 2026, bringing together the world’s best young athletes to compete. The YOG will be held across the three cities of Dakar, Diamniadio and Saly and aim to serve as a catalyst to transform Senegalese young people through sport.

Watch the promotional video of Dakar en jeux here

Credit: International Olympic Committee

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