On September 19, a special judo session was organized in Lausanne as part of the Sport & Migrants Mineurs project, a project that was set up earlier this year. The purpose of it is to use sport to support the integration of young migrants from the Lausanne region.

The judo session was led by Olympic medalist Sergei Aschwanden and young local judoka. For nearly three hours, young migrants were able to rub shoulders with what is best in the field of judo.

The philosophy of the whole programme relies on shared values with the Olympic movement, the City of Lausanne, the Canton de Vaud and the Youth Olympic Games (YOG). Among the basic principles that feed the whole movement are the commitment and empowerment of youth, the role of sport in the society, the cultural diversity, the social inclusion and the solidarity. It is meant to highlight the best of sport in the heart of the Olympic capital on the occasion of the Lausanne 2020 YOG in a perspective of building the heritage for the region. In order to achieve those ambitious goals, sports stakeholders are invited to contribute.

Olympic Medallist Sergei Aschwanden

The group or organizers refers itself as “The Republic of Sports”, a place where everyone can participate, no matter the origins. Local youth and Swiss Olympians are actively included in the activities and the IJF provided judogi for the migrants to wear during the clinic. The goal is to create an open and inclusive space for games, activities and training related to egalitarian sport that guarantees the dignity and development of young migrants so that they can get the best of themselves and contribute to the society that welcomes them.

About a dozen of young migrants (approx. 15 - 25 years old) from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Colombia etc. who are currently based in canton de Vaud (Lausanne region) took part in the judo session. Most of them are waiting for their permit, some do live in the region with official refugee status. In addition there were about 15 local judo players.

Fort the organizers of the event, the main idea is to create opportunities for migrants to discover new sports or to continue with the sport they used to practice before they left their country (e.g. one player from Colombia was a national youth champion in his country). It is also about connecting local youth with young migrants through sport and promote the integration of young migrants in a local sports club as part of their integration in Switzerland. At the end of the programme, two boys and one girl, including the Colombian youth champion, expressed their interest to start practicing with local judo club.

Dusanth, 23 years old, from Sri-Lanka, is currently staying in a state-run shelter home for migrants in Ste-Croix (Canton de Vaud): “I was so excited to participate in that judo training session in Lausanne. It made me very happy as this sport was a new experience for me (my sport is weightlifting). I experienced a wonderful brotherhood with the other young migrants from Afghanistan, Irak and Syria, but also with the locals. This motivates me to continue judo and I’ve been offered the opportunity to join a local club in Yverdon. I am so grateful to the organisers from the Republic of Sport, the International Judo Federation and also our coach, Olympic medallist and local role model Sergei Aschwanden. The sports activities proposed by this local association are a wonderful opportunity for other young migrants like me to make new friends and enjoy the positive emotions generated by sport – while keeping our mind away from some of the daily challenges we face!”

“Sport is the language we speak in the Republic of Sports. It was great to see young migrants, local judokas and Olympians like Sergei Aschwanden have fun and sharing the same values through practicing judo and we are looking forward to continue collaborating with the IJF for future judo activities”, said Geert Hendriks, co-founder of the Republic of Sports.

For all those who participated, it was also great to see every Swiss youngster taking the lead to teach young migrant the basic skills of judo. At least half of the migrants do not speak French but there was no barrier to communicate and everyone enjoyed playing judo with each other.

The 'Republic of Sports' will continue to organise clinics for other activities and repeat certain sports next year, including judo and the IJF President, Mr. Marius Vizer is planning on meeting the young migrants soon.

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