December 3 - A Judo for Peace seminar in Lusaka, Zambia, saw young competitors and officials from six African countries attend a two-day event which included the inauguration of the first stone of the planned national training centre in the city.
The International Judo Federation's (IJF) media and communications director and member of the Development Commission, Nicolas Messner was on-hand in the Zambian capital to officially mark the laying of the first foundation stone of the new facility located in the Olympic Youth Development Centre.
"Today is a great day for judo in Zambia and judo in the region," said Messner.
"When this facility will be operational, competitors, referees, children, officials will meet here to strengthen their skills and to strengthen judo."
Messner was joined at the special ceremony by Alfred Foloko, President of the Zambian Judo Federation (ZJF).
"Today marks the beginning of the construction of the judo centre, a landmark judo facility for development athletes, officials and for hosting competitions," he said.
"I am pleased that the design of the centre will not only meets the requirements of this unique sport, but is also conceived with sustainability in mind.
"Apart from the building hardware, we also attach great importance to the development of programmes."
As well as hosts Zambia, judoka from Botswana, South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Swaziland took part in a tournament organised by the ZJF which saw mixed teams of girls and boys participating in competition in front of more than 1,000 spectators at the Olympic Youth Development Centre.
The centre was opened in 2010 by then International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge and former Zambian President Rupiah Banda, and is run by the country's National Olympic Committee (NOC).
The venue aims to provide a range of sports for all programmes and good facilities for top athletes.
The director of the centre, Clement Chileshe paid tribute to the work of local judo coaches in using the sport to help engage with the young people of the area.
"Judo has a strong impact within the communities," he said.
"Young people first came to the centre because they believed that they would become better fighters, but they actually became better citizens and left the gangs they were members of."
The Judo for Peace Commission was founded by IJF President Marius Vizer in 2007 with the aim of opening up the sport to more countries and using it as a tool to engage young people and those in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world.
During the seminar, which was also attended by Zambia's Deputy Minister for Youth and Sport, Christopher Mulenga, the ZJF and members of the country's police and armed forces held discussions around the possibility of establishing a judo project in some of Zambia's refugee camps, with a pilot project scheduled to be up and running next year.
Mulenga thanked the IJF and Vizer for their continued support of judo and young people in the country.
"It is with tremendous excitement and pride that I am greatly humbled to welcome you all to this important event," he said.
"This magnificent Judo for Peace seminar and tournament is the stage which gives us the wonderful opportunity to come together and meet, for the athletes to compete in the best sense of friendship, solidarity and fair play, synonymous with the Olympic Movement."
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