Published Sunday 17 August 2014

Competition has only just kicked off at the Youth Olympic Games, but Kiwi athletes have already immersed themselves in the village life.

The Culture and Education Program has been running since the team's arrival in Nanjing, with a selection of cultural, team building and athlete development activities and workshops. Some of the Kiwi athletes have been exploring the culture booths in the Village and taking part in the “learn and share” activities run by the IOC.

Julianne Alvarez, one of the Youth Olympic golfers, has been taking part in Tai Chi each morning and said that the emphasis on stretching and body balance "is really good for golf."

"They teach us about the different branches of Tai Chi," she said. "It's all about breathing and maintaining a good centre."

Julianne also commented on the vibrant atmosphere of the athlete village. "Everybody is so friendly and enthusiastic to meet new people, this is like the best athletes in the world all in one village," she said.

The CEP will be running throughout the Games, with activities outside of the Village beginning on the 18th. Athletes will be able to go to the Ming City wall, the Olympic museum and the Sports Lab – a way for athletes to learn a new sport. 

Renee Hannah was selected by the New Zealand Olympic Committee to represent the country as Youth Ambassador for the CEP. She will be coordinating and encouraging the Kiwi athletes involvement throughout the Games. Already, Hannah said, the athletes have been getting involved and experiencing the different activities on offer.

"It's great to see the Kiwi athletes getting involved in activities in the Youth Olympic Village and excited to participate in further activities outside of the Village," she said. 

Hannah joined some of the athletes and coaches in Tai Chi in the main village square, putting on a public display for the Village athletes and experiencing a bit of the Chinese public displays of group exercise. 

One of the activities on offer is the Chat with Champions, which will begin tomorrow evening and offers a series of presentations by current Olympic and World Championship medalists. Youth Olympic Games athletes will be able to ask questions and hear the stories of the champions. New Zealand's representative is K-1 200m Olympic Gold medalist, Lisa Carrington. 

Athletes will participate in the CEP activities when they are not in competition and when it doesn't interfere with training.