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Coaches, athletes and parents can also use these pages to answer their questions regarding aquatic health issues.

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Legacy of the Youth Olympic Games - “Excellence, Friendship, Respect”

The global television audience and local fans were entertained by the world’s elite youth swimmers and divers during the 1st Youth Olympic Games held in Singapore in August 2010. The athletes enjoyed a high level of competition in beautiful competition venues cheered on by enthusiastic local crowds of local fans and school children. They also participated in a cultural and educational programme which addressed important health issues for the developing aquatic athlete amongst other themes depicting the values of Olympism. The medical and anti-doping programmes during the Youth Olympic Games provided excellent support services for the athletes as well as valuable educational opportunities. The youth aquatic Olympians enjoyed a healthy event, experiencing very low incidences of injury and illness.

FINA recently participated in the first edition of the Youth Olympic Games held in Singapore in August 2010. The Youth Olympic Games held high-level competition in 26 sports while providing a cultural and educational programme to 3,600 of the world’s best athletes between 14 and 18 years of age. Altogether 205 countries participated in a total of 201 sport events. FINA had a total of 386 swimmers and 33 divers participating. The swimming programme comprised six days of competition in the first week at the open-air Singapore Sports School followed by four days of diving in week two at the outdoor venue of Toa Payoh under the night sky.

The Youth Olympic Games saw new sporting events such as  “3 on 3”street basketball, relay races in the pool with mixed gender teams, and even  competitions with mixed teams from different nationalities in triathlon and modern pentathlon.

The objectives of the Youth Olympic Games were:

- "to prepare a generation of young elite athletes to have an ethical approach to sport, with strong values and principles
- to educate young people on the importance of sport for their health and their social integration
- to inform young people about the risks linked to sport"


Sport is an ideal educational tool, teaching the athlete discipline and encouraging achievement through goal setting. In addition to the two weeks of competition, the athletes participated in a wide range of cultural and educational activities aimed at equipping them with the skills to help them make decisions both inside and outside of sport. The programme covered a host of topics, including the benefits of leading healthy lifestyles, the dangers of doping, and the value of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

The International Olympic Committee endeavoured to present the information in a format which the athletes would find both enjoyable and relevant, with an emphasis on active participation. The athletes were obliged to remain in the Olympic Village for the entire duration of the event, even when their competitive events were completed, so they could participate in these educational programmes. The Youth Olympic Games had a strong outreach presence on social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There were contests to challenge the online community to become physically active.

Swimming’s Michael Phelps, along with Jamaican track sprinter Usain Bolt and Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, acted as Youth Olympic Games Ambassador role models for the athletes.

The activities of the Cultural and Educational Programme were based on five themes which identified areas of Olympism of particular relevance to the youth athlete. These themes were expressed through a total of 50 activities made available to athletes in seven formats. In particular, one of the Discovery Activities in the Village Square at the Olympic Village was the Health Zone which contained health-related activities and videos for athlete participation.

The health topics addressed in the Health Zone booth included:

• Interactive games reviewing the nutritional requirements of sport
• A series of videos of youth athletes entitled “Hungry for Gold” which reviewed the risks of eating disorders and body image issues for young women in sport
• An animation and computer programme on sexual harassment and abuse in sport

Themes of the Youth Olympic Games

Theme Components
Olympism History of the Olympic Movement
Olympism and Olympic Values/Ideals
Codes of Conduct
Icons in Sport
Skills Development Life Skills
Career Management
Life beyond Sport: education, Career planning
Well-Being and Healthy Lifestyle Risks in Sport: Anti-doping
Health Promotion
Social Responsibility Cultural sensitivity and inclusivity
Community involvement
Expression Communication with the media
Digital Media initiation and new developments

Cultural & Educational Programmes

Format Examples
Chat with Champions Athletes could meet Olympic Champions and role models,
including swimming's Alexander Popov
Discovery Activity Interactive exchibitions and workshops were available at
the Olympic Village, including the Health Zone and the
WADA booth
World Cultural Village Local schools developed booths depicting the culture of
each of the 205 participating nations
Arts & Culture Various activities based on music, dance and art were
available in the Olympic Village. The athletes enjoyed five
nights of live concerts at the Village Stadium in addition to
the final closing ceremony party.
Community Project Based on the theme of social responsibility, athletes
participated in seven locations in Singapore to interact with
the local community through various activities.
Island Adventure Athletes could participate in white-water rafting, rock
climbing and sailing at a local island emphasising team work,
mutual respect and confidence building.
Exploration Journey Two environmental locations in Singapore where the
athletes learned about environmental preservation.


The Youth Olympic Village had a fully equipped medical centre on-site to attend to health issues and physiotherapy needs. There was full emergency equipment available, along with a dental programme, x-ray facilities, a pharmacy, a mini-laboratory, an influenza isolation area and an active physiotherapy treatment programme. There was a United Nations AIDS awareness programme in the medical clinic which provided educational materials on AIDS prevention along with free condoms. Also there was a medical post at all Cultural and Educational locations for the athletes participating in the various programmes. The majority (80%) of the health issues encountered during the Youth Olympic Games were treated at the Youth Olympic Village Medical Centre. The gender breakdown was approximately 50% male and 50% female which reflected the gender ratio of athletes, which was 48% female and 52% male.

Given the younger age of the participating athletes at the Youth Olympic Games relative to the Olympic Games, a counselling service was provided at the Youth Olympic Village to help the athletes cope with the stress of competing and of being away from home. This emotional support service was accessible to athletes either by referral from the medical services or on a walk-in basis. Phone counselling was also available.

There were four designated hospitals in Singapore which treated athletes who were referred for either further investigations or hospitalisation. Use of the medical services by the athletes at the Youth Olympic Games varied between sports and nationalities. The majority of the athletes treated by the medical services in Singapore suffered from musculoskeletal injuries related to sport participation. In particular, the lower limb was the most common body part affected, followed by the upper limb and spine. Next to injuries, respiratory illnesses were most prevalent followed by dermatological (skin) issues. Despite the hot and humid tropical climate, heat injuries were rarely encountered. In general, there were no major health issues encountered by aquatic athletes during the event.

There was an active public health programme during the Youth Olympic Games. Regular monitoring and testing of the food and water supplies to the Youth Olympic Village and competition venues were undertaken. In the region, there was an epidemic of the viral illness “hand, foot and mouth disease” which did not affect any of the athletes, coaches or officials. Outbreaks of food poisoning and Dengue fever in the local general population were monitored. Again, no Youth Olympic Games participants were affected.

Each competitive and training venue was equipped with medical supplies and an emergency medical team. The aquatics venues were responsible for 1-2% of the total encounters, indicating the relatively low risk of aquatic sports for injuries. Given the relatively large number of aquatic athletes in relation to other sports, aquatic athletes were the second-highest users of medical services behind athletics. When adjusted for total numbers, approximately 15% of all aquatic athletes attended medical services, which was much lower than for other sports, including cycling (34%), equestrian (33%), handball (29%) and tennis (28%). 


The anti-doping programme at the Youth Olympic Games was different from those at the FINA World Championships or the Olympic Games. In addition to having fewer tests conducted, emphasis was placed on the education of the youth athlete. WADA had a large educational booth as part of the Cultural and Educational programme at the Youth Olympic Village, where athletes could play simulated games based on fair play and anti-doping principles. They were rewarded with green “Play True” basketballs or footballs for their participation. During the anti-doping procedures, educational videos were playing in the waiting-rooms and educational pamphlets were made available in many languages. During the doping control processing of the urine and blood, the Doping Control Officers took extra time to explain the procedures to those youth athletes who were inexperienced in doping control procedures. There were 16 internationally trained Doping Control Officers from 10 countries who were present in Singapore to assist with the education of the athletes. As the youth athletes were under the age of consent, an official from the athlete’s country accompanied the athlete throughout the procedures.

In total, approximately 1,200 tests were completed, including both pre and post competition. A total of 100 athletes underwent blood testing for human growth hormone and transfusions. Swimming was one of the five identified sports during the Youth Olympic Games which had blood-testing programmes. Swimmers and divers were subjected to random out-of-competition testing during their stay at the Olympic Village. In addition, some of the medallists were tested from each final, as well as a randomly selected athlete. 

The samples were analysed at the WADA accredited laboratory in Delhi, India. To date, there have been no positive tests from the Youth Olympic Games.


The aquatic athletes at the Youth Olympic Games enjoyed 12 days of high-level competition and a rich experience in the Cultural and Educational programme. The medical programme was of high quality and utilisation statistics demonstrate the relative safety of elite aquatic sports. The anti-doping programme provided an educational experience for the participating youth athletes.

The aquatic swimming and diving stars of tomorrow will have been inspired by their experiences during the Youth Olympic Games to:

- do their best in sports and life
- build a better world through teamwork and mutual understanding
- respect oneself, others, rules and regulations, as well as the environment

The ultimate goal for the athletes of the Youth Olympic Games was expressed in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games by IOC President Jacques Rogge: “To win, you merely have to cross the finish line first. To be a champion, you have to inspire admiration for your character, as well as for your physical talent”.

*Dr. Margo Mountjoy is a member of the FINA Bureau. She is the Bureau Liaison for the FINA Sports Medicine Committee. She is a retired international level synchronised swimmer and the medical consultant for the Aquatic Federation of Canada and Synchro Canada. She is a member of the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission as well as a member of the World Anti-Doping Association’s Therapeutic Use Exemption Committee. She is an Assistant Professor at McMaster University Medical School. She has a special interest in elite aquatic health.

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