A growing Friendship
AS a basketballer, Andrew Vlahov was a bullish competitor.
As a chief executive, the fire still burns for the former Perth Wildcats captain.
Through his promotion company RV Sport, Vlahov is taking ambitious steps with his Friendship Games initiative – a youth sports event that doubles as a sharing of cultures between WA and Asian nations.
With a host of backers, including Perth Glory owner Tony Sage, the champion sportsman has a grand vision for this summer’s meet.
The event was first held in Perth in 2012 with more than 500 elite WA and Chinese athletes.
Last year, 47 Western Australians went to Shanghai to return the favour.
But next year, Vlahov is opening the Friendship Games to all children, not just the elite contingent.
The four-time Olympian is calling on every school in WA to nominate a boy and girl to participate.
For the first time, the Games will focus on youth with disabilities and those who are disadvantaged.
It will grow from a WAChina festival to include competitors from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In the future, Vlahov hopes to include India and Sri Lanka.
“It’s a cross between a community initiative, crowd-funding and the will to collectively build a sustainable youth event for many years for WA,” he said.
“It sounds bigger than Ben Hur, but the way we’ve modelled it on what we’ve done previously and what other people have now stepped up to the plate to do – it’s great.
“There’s still quite a competitive element to it, but what we thought is – ‘we’ve got all this infrastructure and organisation capability, we should be making it so that not just elite athletes have a crack, but also the general population who want to have an international experience’.”
A ‘buddy-funding’ system will be introduced to allow disadvantaged children to attend the eight-day event free.
The cost is covered in paid-participant fees as well as through corporate sponsorships and philanthropy.
Vlahov is a member of the board of the Global Good Foundation, which works with deprived youth.