|IOC President Jacques Rogge presented the plan for the Youth Olympic Games to the IOC Session in Guatemala. (ATR)
(ATR) With the first edition planned for 2010, the IOC has approved the Youth Olympic Games, a concept aiming to arrest the decline in the interest of sport among the younger generation.
“Should we invest in youth? The answer is yes,” IOC president Jacques Rogge told the IOC Session in Guatemala Thursday.
“Will it be a challenge? Definitely. Is it an opportunity? Absolutely,” he said. “We will learn with experience and correct and improve each time.”
IOC members voted unanimously in favor of the new event targeted at athletes aged 14 to 18, who will participate in an adapted Olympic Games program. Some described the announcement as a “historic moment”.
Details of the YOG
The summer and winter Youth Olympic Games will alternate every four years, summer in 2010, winter in 2012. They are the first new multi-sport events to be created by the IOC since the Winter Olympics were formed in the 1920’s.
The 2010 edition featuring 3,200 athletes will take place across 12 days in mid-August.
The 2012 winter event will include 1,000 athletes in January or February over 10 days.
The bid process for the 2010 YOG is now open. All national Olympic committees are invited to nominate bid cities.
Prior to today’s vote, Rogge said the IOC had already received six expressions of interest from cities wanting to be candidate cities for the 2010 edition.
Moscow is believed to be one of the cities but the IOC is set to take the Youth Olympic Games to smaller cities and developing countries.
Dozens of IOC Members Speak Up
In a discussion that lasted nearly three hours, many IOC members spoke out against handing the Youth Olympic Games to the big industrialized nations, saying the IOC should target developing nations such as those in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The full IOC membership will decide the 2010 host city by postal vote in January 2008, while another postal vote will be taken in January 2009 to award the 2012 Youth Olympic Games.
Rogge said the Youth Olympic Games was “the centerpiece” of the IOC’s plans to help tackle the global child obesity problem and increase youth participation in sport.
Recapturing the interest of the younger generation in sport and the Olympics was vital, he said.
“The Youth Olympic Games are a unique and powerful introduction to Olympism,” he told IOC members. “They are a stepping stone to the Olympic Games.
“They will not be a mini Games but will have their own identity and blend of sports to complement the Olympic Games.
“We believe they will increase the appeal of sport and the Games among the youth of today.”
The sports program will be limited to make them suitable for young athletes and “to reduce the size and complexity” of staging the Games.
Noting the impact of snowboarding and BMX racing in recent Olympics, he did not rule out the introduction of new sports to the program for the Youth Olympic Games in
|The Youth Olympic Games are modeled after continental events such as the Australian Youth Olympic Festival. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images))
the coming years.
Some IOC members also suggested the sports program for the Youth Olympic Games should be revamped to make it more relevant to youngsters.
Rogge estimates the cost of staging the summer Youth Olympic Games at $30 million and the winter edition at $15-20 million.
Acknowledging the charges of gigantism often levelled at the Olympic Movement, Rogge said: “All sports should take place in the same city or region and we will emphasize that no new infrastructure should be built.”
There will also be an educational and cultural component to the Games. Athletes will be taught Olympic and social values with a major focus on prevention of doping.
He said the IOC will be proactive in using new media channels such as blogs and social networking sites online - including YouTube and MySpace - to connect with youngsters.
“They are very successful and we believe we will reach a youth audience through them,”
said Rogge, who also revealed plans for a new global Olympic TV advertising campaign aimed at young people.
One of the main concerns raised by IOC members was the impact of the Youth Olympic Games on an already crowded sporting calendar and the increasing workload for NOCs.
Dick Pound, senior IOC member in Canada, said the Games plan needed to be studied in more depth and suggested that some integrated global solutions could be identified to tackle the issues with young people “that go far beyond organizing sport”.
Pound said the educational and cultural components had to be very carefully crafted, while there were legal issues to consider relating to the management of minors for the Games.
He called on the IOC to invite experts in different fields such as public health, education and advertising to be consulted to look for “effective ways to deliver the message”.
Pound also questioned the costs of the project for NOCs and IFs selecting teams for the YOG. He also said the Games could have a detrimental impact on smaller regional sports competitions currently hosted across the world.
“If this is going to be the centerpiece of the IOC’s response to attracting youth, we had better get this right,” said Pound.
“We should be careful because we are all action-orientated and we don’t want to let out enthusiasm get in the way of using our resources in the best way. 2010 is very, very close,” said Pound.
Patrick Hickey, IOC member in Ireland and president of the European Olympic Committee, said the new event would also build on the success of the European Youth Olympic Festival.
Phil Coles and John Coates, both IOC members for Australia, welcomed the launch of the YOG and insisted it could piggyback nicely with the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, a legacy of the Sydney 2000 Games.
“It is a bold move and if properly managed will provide a unique experience for young athletes,” Coles said.
Reported from Guatemala by Mark Bisson.
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