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(ANS – Krakow) – Football, basketball, volleyball and table tennis: the ball in four of its dimensions dominated the city of Krakow from 28th April to 3rd May 2012. About 1500 young people from 11 European countries competed in the XXII International Salesian Youth Games, under the patronage of the President of the Polish Republic, Bronisław Komorowski.
The games were organised by the Salesian Sports Organisation (SALOS) of the Republic of Poland which promotes passion for sport, honest competition and the principles of fair play among children and young people.
They were aimed at offering Salesian youth an opportunity for healthy sporting competition, building a new world through sport based on Christian humanism and developing character and respect for values. There was also a significant cultural element in the initiative: the young athletes were able to go on various guided tours, visiting the city of Krakow and its surrounding area – the Monastery of Tyniec (sailing there and back by boat), the Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the salt mine at Wieliczka.
“In these days of competition you are building a new world, based on respect for every person, especially the weakest. Respect and strengthen the values of peace, truth, goodness, justice, liberty, human dignity and solidarity. May your games be genuinely educational, a preparation for life in a new world without frontiers, which you long for and which you know how to build.” So wrote Sr Maria del Carmen Canales FMA, General Councillor for Youth Ministry, in her message.
Earlier Fr Pascual Chávez, represented by the Regional Councillor for Northern Europe, Fr Mark Chrzan, gave this reflection in his message: “Salesian presence in the field of sport continues to be important and can be very significant, gathering many children and young people who would not otherwise receive an educational input from us. This is why we must be faithful to Salesian criteria (…). In the sporting context of our society we must be a presence promoting an alternative form of sport, serving people and encouraging their integral growth.”
The games were also an excellent occasion for family entertainment and a way of preparing for a healthy and cheerful approach to the 2012 European Cup. On 2nd May, for example, at half-time in the football final, the spectators enjoyed an exhibition of acrobatic football from Krzysztof Golonka, world champion in this speciality. There was also an opportunity to get to know about SALOS (Salesian Sports Organisation) in Krakow.
Obviously great attention was given to the religious dimension of the initiative. The Salesian chapel of St Stanisław Kostka in Dębniki remained open for those who wanted to stop by for a prayer and in the evening of 2nd May there was a religious service which many attended.
There was also the opening ceremony of the Games, in which the athletes walked in a long and festive procession through the streets of Krakow, and the closing ceremony where the guest of honour was the former goal keeper of the national soccer team, Jerzy Dudek. Presenting the cups and medals were Geog Leibold, President of PGS-I, Professor Zbigniew Dziubiński, President of SALOS, and Fr Edward Pleń SDB, National Chaplain for Polish athletes and vice-President of SALOS.
The next three International Salesian Youth Games will be held in Croatia, Slovakia, and in Turin, Italy.