EmilyBlog – Cultural connections

By Emily Ridlington, Sports Media Canada Special Correspondent and International Olympic Committee Young Reporter

Singapore – Laughter could be heard and drum beats echoed through the heart of the Youth Olympic Village at the World Cultural Village.

Smiles and brilliant colours everywhere

In an open area on the way to the dining hall, pavilions were set up. Picture the World’s Fair or an Expo 67 type concept. Every couple of days, countries from a specific continent were represented.

In between typing, snapping photos or gathering footage, I tried to take a five minute break just to stay sane and get some fresh air or well, at least, as fresh as I can. Stepping out into the courtyard was comparable to boarding a plane bound for multiple international destinations.

One day, I stepped into the India pavilion and quickly became well versed on how to wear a sari and had a henna tattoo on my arm. Somehow, I also got roped into playing a little game of cricket. I must tell you that this simple Canadian has heard of cricket but never actually had a grasp of the rules or tried it.

In the middle of the courtyard, I was, with little instruction, swinging a bat-like object at a small ball. My teammates were very kind and patient. Sonali, my colleague in the Young Reporters program from India, said for a beginner, my performance was mediocre, and perhaps my future was not as an international cricket prodigy.  It was good to have a couple laughs before I headed back to my workroom to continue to produce journalistic ‘magic.’

I must mention the Singaporean school children dressed in traditional attire from the various countries who worked hard to share their knowledge about the nation they represented. These were large scale social studies projects brought to life. You could see the effort, care and attention paid to making sure everything was just right. Athletes and coaches who had time to kill could wander in and out of the pavilions to learn about other parts of the world.

This was the exact intention of the other arm of the Youth Olympics known as the Culture and Education Program, dubbed CEP. It is about getting athletes to look beyond their own borders and expose them to other nations in an effort to create better global citizens just one of the aspects of CEP.

On another day I found the Canadian pavilion. Once the schoolchildren found out I was from Canada, my five minute break turned into 20 minutes. Not to worry I had finished my assignment and was waiting for the bus to arrive to go to the venue for the next event I was to cover.

Learning I was from Canada, I got a detailed tour of the pavilion and the kids were more interested in finding out if they had done a good job and painted an accurate picture of my home and native land.

The icing on the cake was when they found out I was living in the Arctic. There were the stereotypically Canadian things like hockey sticks, Celine Dion, Mounties, maple syrup and snow but also attention to detail was paid. I don’t know about you but I don’t know what our country’s longest river is — but these 12 and 13 year olds from Singapore sure did. I was impressed.

After my visit “home” I had to catch the bus and the kids asked for my e-mail. I had no qualms in giving it to them — as for them, the learning process will continue if we continue to stay in contact. As you can read that I was a big fan of the World Cultural Village. Not everyone can say they got to travel to about 30 countries in the span of an hour.