From bitter experiences to bettering young lives

When your father is shot by the Gestapo (Nazi Germany’s secret service) and your mother swims across a river to escape the fury in battlefront Germany during World War II, life becomes a tough examination for an eight-year-old but Metod Klemenc was made of sterner stuff.

Metod Klemenc (centre), founder of the International Children Games, looks on as his daughter Marjeta greets London Paralympics silver medallist HN Girisha at the Sree Kanteerava stadium on Tuesday. DH Photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

Klemenc faced the hardships of that time with courage and decades later, he now can view with pride his dream and vision touching the lives of many a kid around the world.
The 78-year-old, founder of the International Children’s Games (ICG), used his hard, life-changing experiences to start a youth movement for fostering peace and friendship among nations in 1968 in Celje (formerly Yugoslavia, now in Slovenia) that is into its 45th year now. 

ICG is a sanctioned event of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and has been held every year in different cities since 1968 with children between 12 and 15 years participating. 
“I was a gym instructor for the Klladivar Track and Field Club in Celje and there was a crisis in the club, that is when I really decided I should do something to help out the youngsters,’’ said Klemenc, who was in Bangalore to inaugurate the second edition of the Bangalore Schools Games at the Sree Kanteerava stadium.

The incident involving his mother during the great war certainly had its impact on Klemenc, toughening him up to take on the world. “He was a sensitive person and the incident was quite important for him when it came to some of the decisions that he took in life including the start of the ICG,’’ Marjeta, Klemenc’s daughter, said.

It was a humble beginning for the Games in 1968 with only a few countries bordering the then Yugoslavia being a part of the event. “Only four teams featured in the inaugural edition and they were mostly from our neighbouring countries,’’ Marjeta revealed interpreting her father’s words from Slovene, their native tongue.

Since its inception, the annual event has had 45 editions, gaining in strength over the years. “The aim of this movement has always been to put youngsters from different cultures in sport and for them to develop a friendship and bond that will help in creating a better world,’’ the septuagenarian, an admirer of Jawaharlal Nehru, explained.  

Daegu in South Korea became the fourth Asian City to host the ICG this year. When queried if India had any prospects of hosting the Games, Klemenc was non-committal saying he had no role. 

“I am an honorary member of the ICG, I don’t have any decision-making authority now,’’ he said. 

On his first visit to India, Klemenc was fascinated by Bangalore, the people he met and its traffic. “People here are very warm and affectionate. They are very genuine without any pretense, the traffic was interesting, never seen anything like this,’’ he said with a smile.

The march past of the school children during the inauguration was a real thrill for him. “This is what I love, the kids coming out together,’’ he added.

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