Kirsty Coventry honoured in Senegal CULT HERO . . . Zimbabwean double Olympic swimming champion and chair of the IOC Co-ordination Commission, Kirsty Coventry, in front of her mural in Dakar, Senegal, on Monday. — Picture:

DAKAR. — A group of artists from across Africa were tasked with uniting the artistic with the athletic to create a mural celebrating the upcoming Dakar 2026 Youth Olympic Games and the result was something set to inspire future generations for years to come. Immortalising sporting success in art.

That was the goal behind a vivacious Olympic-inspired mural unveiled at the Dakar en Jeux Festival 2022 in Senegal as part of a new yearly celebration blending sport with Senegalese culture in the build-up to the Dakar 2026 Youth Olympic Games.

The 300m-long artwork located at the Gare de Dakar was created by 15 different graffiti artists from across Africa.

It features the images of some of the biggest sporting stars on the planet, including Senegal’s sole Olympic medal winner, Seoul 1988 400m hurdler Amadou Dia Ba, as well as football star Sadio Mané, who hopes to fire the nation to footballing success at the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

Also featured on the wall are images the Zimbabwean double Olympic swimming champion and Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission Kirsty Coventry, and IOC president Thomas Bach, who were both at the mural unveiling on Monday.

In fact, Dakar 2026 organisers are giving us a taste of what to expect at the Youth Olympic Games in Senegal, with the colourful launch of the Dakar en Jeux Festival.

The festival is aiming to promote the 2026 Games, the first time that an Olympic sports event will be held in Africa, and is fusing environmental, cultural, and sporting activities.

The 2022 edition of the annual showcase, being held in October and November, puts Dakar 2026 on the starting blocks, but also encourages young people to get involved.

“It’s a real tiny little insight into what I think we’ll see in 2026. And it’s super exciting,” said Coventry, the chair of the International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission for Dakar 2026.

Coventry and Bach were in Senegal to witness the celebration of sport and the rich Senegalese culture.

Senegal, the host of the third summer Youth Olympic Games (YOG), organised a series of activities to mark the celebrations.

“The pre-Games legacy is just something that we’ve consistently been trying to push as the Olympic movement,” Coventry told in Dakar.

“You just feel the love and the energy that people in Senegal have for all things lifestyle outside, like outdoor lifestyle is key. And so being on the beach and entertaining and having fun with the kids and dancing and just their energy is so high,” she said of the celebrations taking place in the capital Dakar, Diamniadio and Saly.

“My hope for Senegal and for Dakar 2026 is to be able to showcase how sport and art and culture can really engage with young people of today and can drive home our values that are so important to us and hopefully instil them into our youth of Africa. I hope that it filters through Africa and doesn’t just stay here.”

The Dakar en Jeux Festival is an initiative launched by the Dakar 2026 Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (YOGOC) to encourage everyone associated with the multisport event, especially Senegalese youth, by involving them fully in the event, and to promote the Games following their postponement from 2022 to 2026 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first edition of the annual celebration coincides with the visit of the coordination commission headed by Coventry, who, alongside Bach, toured some of the venues including the Athletes’ Village.

“I am full of anticipation and being here in the future Youth Olympic Village and seeing that it is almost ready, four years before the big event starts. We will make a great experience, of great and excellent African sport and athletes, but also of the joy of life and the Ubuntu of the African spirit and culture,” said Bach, who planted a symbolic tree at the village, part of the first phase of tree planting activities for the Olympic Forest in the Sahel region.

Already, 70 000 seedlings have been planted, according to organisers.

Coventry, the double Olympic swimming champion, is pleased with the progress of preparations for Dakar 2026.

“Coming from Zimbabwe and being African, my hope is that the Olympic Games coming to Africa for the first time, Senegal will be able to showcase what we as Africa are made of, the love that the people have for each other and for others, the unity, the love that we have to showcase our beautiful countries.”

“It’s really exciting to see the developments that have already happened. Even with the postponement, things are being built, they’re being done and it’s such a high world class standard.” —

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