An Olympian returns ‘home’

5 | 7 | 2019

Chinese Olympic sailor and budding journalist Lijia (Lily) Xu recently attended the 59th International Olympic Academy Young Participants Session in Athens, Greece from 1-15 June after gaining a sponsored place through World Olympians Association. This is her experience of returning to the spiritual home of the Olympic Games:

"After two weeks of stimulating activities both indoor and outdoor, the 59th International Young Participants Session came to a close. Although I have been to three Olympic Games and numerous world competitions, it was my very first experience of living, studying, playing, and socialising with such a wide variety of people and cultures, with 170 participants from 85 countries around the globe!

"The design of the sessions was truly fascinating, from lectures, Q&A, group discussions and presentations, to extracurricular activities such as sports, art, field trips, social events, films, an Olympic quiz and performances.

"The combination of field trips and lectures relating to both the ancient and modern Olympics, boosted our interest and understanding of the Olympic Movement, while this year’s theme of ‘Sports Diplomacy and Peace’ showed us how the Olympics act as a unique way to unite people and countries worldwide.

"Seeing the history of Olympia and learning the philosophy behind it, put me in complete awe and respect. It is now our duty to pass this on to the next generation and let the Olympic Values keep expanding and benefiting the lives of every human being.

"As an Olympic Champion and now a media freelancer, I feel I have the power and responsibility to spread further the message of Olympism to young people all over the world, inspiring them to lead a healthier life, to chase their dreams boldly, to keep challenging themselves, to embrace what we have and to give our hand generously to those in need.

"One day during a lecture, a participant said there had been a bombing in his hometown the night before which had claimed the lives of over 120 people. It may feel far away when you watch it on the news, but it could also be so close to you that you find it almost impossible to believe.

"However big the conflicts are in some corners of the earth, those who attended the Young Participants Session will forever remember that peace and happiness are achievable despite the diversity of appearances, languages, culture, religion, interests, ideas and beliefs. This was my experience during my two weeks in Greece: we progressed together, we laughed together, we conquered challenges and solved problems together, for the simple reason that we wanted to make this world a better place to live for every single person.

"I hope this wonderful memory stays with us throughout our lives and guides us to make the right decisions and actions when one day we become leaders, managers, scholars, initiators, or experts in our chosen fields.

"Thank you IOA for arranging this, and thanks to WOA for giving me this chance."