The Olympics are about to be held in the world’s largest sporting event, with hundreds of thousands of children competing to become the next world champion.
But it’s not just about the medal haul.
The Games also are about the Olympics being about the kids, with the Games aimed at encouraging a generation of young people to love sport, even as parents have begun to take steps to limit their child’s involvement.
In recent years, sports such as basketball and soccer have been the focus of a major campaign by parents who have taken their children to games and have been inundated with questions about what the Games are really about.
“It’s an opportunity for kids to be active, and to be involved, and that’s really what we wanted them to experience in the Olympics,” said Mark Rippey, president of the International Olympic Committee.
“We’re not just going to put them in the stadium and let them compete.”
The Olympics have been criticized for a number of factors, including the fact that many of the events in the Games take place at private homes and there are no designated Olympic facilities.
In addition, a recent study from the International Sport Observatory (ISA) found that in some countries, including some in the developing world, children as young as three are often excluded from participating in the games because of concerns about health, safety or the potential for violence.
In an effort to combat that, IOC officials in recent years have introduced an initiative known as the ‘Grammar Revolution’ to help schools teach their students how to read and write.
But despite efforts to promote greater participation among children in sports, the IOC has yet to introduce any major changes to the Games.
And while the Games will be watched closely, some experts say it’s premature to jump to conclusions about the future of the Games in the face of what they say are some of the most promising innovations in sports education.
“I think it’s a bit premature to predict that the Games, at least, will continue to be about kids,” said David Eisner, a professor of sport at Duke University who studies sports in developing countries.
“What we’re really seeing is a new era of sports, a new age of participation, and a new generation of athletes.”
While some experts have argued that the Olympics could be a catalyst for the development of sports programs and a way for developing countries to better protect their athletes, others argue that children are already doing some of their best in sports as a way to build confidence and self-esteem.
“There is a growing sense among parents, as well as sports coaches, that they’re going to have to get involved,” said Eisner.
“If you want to see a big impact on children’s participation, you have to have a good sports program.”
For the Olympics to truly be about the children, experts say, they will need to take a more holistic approach to what they’re doing.
“They have to be able to engage kids in a way that’s a game of skill rather than a game where the child is competing against a bunch of people,” said Richard Seltzer, a sport-teacher and professor at the University of Chicago.
“That’s a big challenge.”
Seltzer said parents who are already involved with their children’s sports need to be more involved, too.
“The Olympics are not just a celebration of children, it’s also about adults who are in charge of kids and are taking them to sports competitions,” he said.
“There’s no question in my mind that this is going to be a generational change in how we see the Games.”