Jerusalem, Israel, is hosting the International Children's Games for the first time. Thousands of athletes between 12 and 15 years old are competing. Jerusalem, Israel, is hosting the International Children's Games for the first time. Thousands of athletes between 12 and 15 years old are competing. Jerusalem, Israel, is hosting the International Children's Games for the first time. Thousands of athletes between 12 and 15 years old are competing. (Photo: Courtesy of ICG)

Everything you need to know about the International Children's Games

This massive gathering of young athletes is happening in Israel for the first time this year.

As more than 1,300 young athletes from 29 countries converge on Jerusalem, Israel, this week for the International Children's Games, it got us wondering: What's the story behind this massive gathering?

We did a little digging, and it turns out this competition has a pretty interesting origin story. Here are some fun facts:

1. It's celebrating its 50th year.

Athletes from Ufa, Russia, arrive in Jerusalem for the 2018 International Children's Games. Athletes from Ufa, Russia, arrive in Israel for the 2018 International Children's Games. (Photo: Courtesy of ICG)

The first ICG event was in 1968 in Slovenia. Delegations from only eight countries, all in Eastern Europe, participated. The event comprises summer games every year and winter games every two years.


2. It's a recognized Olympic event.

The Olympic flag The Olympic flag flies at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony. (Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

The ICG is a recognized organization of the International Olympic Committee. It's not to be confused, however, with the Junior Olympics, another gathering of young athletes.


3. It's not just about sports.

A Slovenian named Metod Klemenc was looking for a way to introduce children to other cultures and promote peace and friendship. He chose sports as the mechanism to achieve that. Now, the organization partners with its host city to provide sightseeing and leisure events for participants.


4. Participating countries literally span the globe.

A swimmer prepares for practice. A swimmer prepares for practice. (Photo: Courtesy of ICG)

Delegations are arriving from Australia, Austria, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, India, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine and the United States.


5. Nine sports are represented.

ICG teams practice in a gym in Jerusalem. ICG teams practice in a gym in Jerusalem. (Photo: Courtesy of ICG)

Participants compete in basketball, soccer, street ball, volleyball, fencing, judo, athletics (aka track and field), tennis and swimming.


6. This year marks the first time Israel has hosted these Games.

Judo competitors from Israel take a break from practice. Judo competitors from Israel take a break from practice. (Photo: Courtesy of ICG)

Slovenia has hosted eight times; Switzerland has hosted six times; the U.S. has hosted twice. The next competition will be in winter 2019 in Lake Placid, N.Y.


7. Speaking of Lake Placid ...

A snow-topped Whiteface Mountain caps Lake Placid's gorgeous scenery. A snow-topped Whiteface Mountain caps Lake Placid's gorgeous scenery. (Photo: mandritoiu/Shutterstock)

The picturesque Upstate New York resort town in the Adirondack Mountains was the site of the 1980 Olympics, where the legendary "Miracle On Ice" upset occurred, with the U.S. men's hockey team shocking the then-Soviet Union in the semifinals.


8. 1994 was a very important year for the ICG organization.

The Games were held outside of Europe for the first time, in Hamilton, Canada. It was also the first year the organization added Winter Games to its schedule, in Ravne na Koroskem, Slovenia.


9. ICG has been the springboard for several young people who eventually became decorated athletes.

Canada's Kylie Masse poses with her bronze medal on the podium of the Women's 100m Backstroke at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in 2016. Canada's Kylie Masse poses with her bronze medal on the podium of the Women's 100m Backstroke at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in 2016. (Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Canadian swimmer Kylie Masse won five medals in both the 2011 and 2012 International Children's Games. In 2016, she took home the bronze medal for the 100m backstroke in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Scottish badminton player Kirsty Gilmour appeared at the ICG in 2007 in Reykjavik, Iceland. Ten years later, she was on the shortlist for Europe's Badminton Player of the Year. She had already won both the Scottish Open and the Austrian Open.
  • Soccer goalkeeper Lee Alexander, who represented Scotland in ICG events in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2004 and Coventry, England, in 2005, now plays for the Glasgow City club team and the Scotland women's national team.
  • And Russian high jumper Danil Lysenko, after winning a medal in the Lanarkshire, Scotland, Games, went on to win gold medals in the Youth Olympic Games in 2014 and the World Indoor Championships in 2018.

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Everything you need to know about the International Children's Games
This massive gathering of young athletes is happening in Israel for the first time this year.