Dakar 2026 Coordination Commission chair Kirsty Coventry hailed the staging of the Dakar en Jeuz festival as a success ©Getty Images

More than 1,500 athletes participated in 26 sports initiations and demonstrations at the eight-day Dakar en Jeux festival, marking a key step in preparations for the Youth Olympic Games.

Kirsty Coventry, chair of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Coordination Commission for Dakar 2026, said the event that took place in the Senegalese cities of Dakar, Diamniadio and Saly gave a "real insight into what we'll see" at the Games in four years' time.

Tens of thousands of people attended Dakar en Jeux that also saw around 30 artists perform at numerous concerts and cultural activities.

The festival began in Saly where more than 500 young local people gathered to experience a range of different sports on the beach such as swimming, beach wrestling and beach rugby.

These initiations were followed by the opening-day concert that officially started the festivities, with a crowd of more than 10,000 people.

Athletes showed their talents in wushu, which is set to make its Youth Olympic Games debut in 2026, while around 200 cyclists participated in a 34 kilometre rally on the main roads between the Dakar train station and Diamniadio town hall.

Other sports that featured during Dakar en Jeux included badminton, judo, roller skating and fencing.

A slam poetry evening was part of the cultural activities, providing rhyme enthusiasts with a platform to interact and express themselves artistically through verbal battles.

The festival concluded with a celebratory concert at the Monument de la Renaissance Africaine featuring performances by Senegal’s most popular rappers and artists.

"Dakar en Jeux has been incredible," said Coventry.

"You feel the love and the energy that people in Senegal have for the outdoor lifestyle: being on the beach, entertaining, having fun with the kids and dancing.

"Their energy is so high, and it is a real insight into what we'll see in 2026.

"With this festival, we’re hoping to lead into 2026 with more connectivity between people, more people coming together and understanding what the Games are, learning new sports, making new friends and bringing about unity."

A 100-metre wall featuring the work of local graffiti artists was also unveiled at the festival in bid to pay tribute to athletes from the African nation.

Senegalese basketball legend and Sydney 2000 Olympian Mame Maty Mbengue shared her enthusiasm at the ceremony at Dakar train station.

"It’s a great honour to inaugurate this mural wall, and I’m speaking for all the Olympians when I say that we’re asking the new generation to follow in our footsteps," said Mbengue.

IOC President Thomas Bach also visited Dakar where he planted a "symbolic tree" at the site that is set to be the Athletes' Village for the Games.

The festival is set to take place every year before the capital holds the Youth Olympics.

"Dakar en Jeux gave us a taste of what it’s going to be like to organise the next editions in 2024 and 2025 and, of course, the big celebration with the Youth Olympic Games in 2026," said Ibrahima Wade, general coordinator for Dakar 2026.

"By hosting this YOG edition, Africa will open itself up to the world and to the universal spirit of the Olympic Games.

"This will certainly be the first step towards future Olympic Games on the African continent."