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  • IOC Faces Fork in the Road with Youth Olympics


    01/26/08

    “If you see a fork in the road, take it.”

    That’s one of the enduring aphorisms spun by Yogi Berra, famous for his interesting use of language as well as his steady play for the New York Yankees in the 1950s and 1960s.

    The IOC now faces just such a perplexing choice as it votes on which city will host the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010. Whether the IOC takes the road leading to Moscow or the one to Singapore, the onward journey will send a signal to cities with hopes of hosting future events.

    Moscow presents bedrock experience and the facilities needed for the Games. Dozens of international sports events, many at world championship levels, have been held in the Russian capital. They include a world youth games in 1998 as well as the 1980 Summer Olympic Games.

    Singapore has 4.7 million residents, or about half the population of Moscow. It is better known for an orderly way of life and a thriving place for business, and less so as a sport capital. While it has hosted international sports events, the 2005 IOC Session that selected London for the 2012 Games was the biggest splash for the city-state in Olympic circles.

    Big or small? Olympic experience or not? The IOC faces a fork in the road as it tries to decide between two excellent candidates that are the finalists in a race that began last year with nine candidates.

    Last year when he announced his intention to seek IOC approval for the Youth Olympic Games, he dangled the possibility of an event hosted by cities that would never host the regular Olympics. With that sort of encouragement, six of the nine candidates that entered the race last August came from cities where the Olympics might never come: Bangkok, Debrecen in Hungary, Guatemala City, Kuala Lumpur and Poznan, Poland. Singapore was the lone survivor.

    Three of the cities came with Olympic experience: Moscow, Athens and Turin.

    Rogge’s idea for the YOG is to keep them low-key and small. The scale would be suitable for the 3,000 youths aged 14 to 18 who would attend.

    “We would want to go to the smallest possible level, provided the quality is there,” he told ATR in an interview last year.

    At the same time, he said he realized that given the short time frame to prepare for these first Games, experience might be desirable to make their success more likely.

    “That’s for me the number one priority -- the need to deliver quality.

    “By going to places we have never been before, fine. If that means to a place that in the past have held successful Games, to build the quality, let’s go back,” he said at the time.

    Now the choice is upon the IOC.

    Go with Moscow, a proven host with all that’s needed for the YOG?

    Or, choose Singapore, which might present more of a challenge? Singapore would be trying to stage its first major multi-sport event; its planned village is still under construction.

    Would a Moscow victory confirm that only Olympic-experienced cities need apply to host the YOG?

    Or would choosing Singapore show that the IOC is willing to take risks to stage what some members privately worry is a risky endeavor?

    The IOC President will let us know on Feb. 21 when he announces the results of the vote.
     
    Op Ed is a weekly column of opinion and ideas from Around the Rings founder and editor-in-chief Ed Hula. Comments, as well as guest columns are welcomed: comment@aroundtherings.com.