Dakar, Senegal is still set to be the first African city to host an Olympic competition.
The first Olympic competition set to be held in Africa is the latest sporting event to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic as the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Dakar, Senegal, will now be held in 2026 instead of 2022, the International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday.
Senegal President Macky Sall proposed the postponement, according to an IOC release, in response to financial and operational challenges related to COVID-19, which has already forced a one-year postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo to 2021, while countless other sporting events around the world have been postponed or canceled.
“The IOC and Senegal understand that this news will be disappointing for many young athletes,” the IOC’s statement read. “Both parties can only appeal to their understanding.”
In the statement, IOC President Thomas Bach added, “I would like to reiterate that the IOC has my full support for the organization of the Youth Olympic Games, postponed to 2026.”
The IOC awarded the 2022 Summer Youth Olympic Games to Senegal in October 2018, with events to be held in the capital Dakar, Diamniadio and the coastal resort of Saly.
Although African nations had bid for Olympic Games in the past — most recently Cape Town, South Africa, reached the final round of voting for the 2004 Olympics but finished third — no Olympic Games, Winter Games or Youth Olympic Games has been held on the continent.
Founded by former IOC President Jacques Rogge, the Youth Olympic Games debuted in 2010 in Singapore as a multi-sport competition for athletes ages 14 to 18. An inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games followed two years later. At the Youth Olympic Games, athletes stay in an athletes’ village and compete across a variety of sports, including some that aren’t part of the full Olympic program. The Youth Olympic Games also have an emphasis on instilling Olympic values through aspects such as cultural exchange and mixed-nation events.
The Dakar Games would be the seventh installment of the Youth Olympic Games, and the fourth summer edition.
“I am sure that, together, we will organize fantastic Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026 for Senegal, the entire African continent and all the young athletes of the world,” Bach said in Wednesday’s release.