(ATR) Moscow strengthens its bid to secure the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010, pressing its “risk-free” credentials to an IOC panel of experts. Russian president Vladimir Putin also weighed in, reinforcing the capital's readiness in a message to the IOC Evaluation Commission Thursday.
The commission chaired by IOC member Sergey Bubka was in Lausanne to review all five cities in the race for the summer 2010 YOG.
Athens, Bangkok, Moscow, Singapore and Turin each delivered 20-minute video teleconference presentations. These were followed by 40-minute question and answer sessions.
It was the last chance for the bid cities to directly address IOC officials before the postal vote of the full IOC in February to decide the host city.
“These video consultations are important as they complement the documentation provided by the cities,” says IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau. “They will help the Evaluation Commission to draft a report that will be given to the IOC Executive Board members for their review before the postal vote in February.”
The Asian cities gave their presentations early in the day due to time zone differences. The Evaluation Commission was still in session past 4pm CET.
Moscow and Singapore emerged as favorites to win the bid contest for the world youth games when the IOC shortlisted the five cities last month.
The Moscow bid team rolled out its heavyweight backers Thursday, underlining how seriously it is treating the opportunity to stage the YOG, which the IOC hopes will rekindle interest in Olympic sports among the younger generation.
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, Russian deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov and Russia's sports minister Slava Fetisov all participated in the video teleconference. Also playing a part were IOC members from Russia -- Vitaly Smirnov and Alexander Popov -- strategic director Alexei Sorokin, and its communication director Alexander Chernov.
“It was technically flawless,” Sorokin tells Around the Rings. He is also deputy head of Moscow City Sports Department. “They didn't raise any concerns. I think we satisfied the evaluation commission in giving clear and adequate responses to their questions.”
“I think Moscow offers a risk-free Games for the IOC,” says Sorokin, acknowledging the short timeframe in preparing for the Youth Olympics. “We have everything in place,” he says, referring to the city's existing infrastructure, its international sports event experience and support at all levels.
Questions from the Evaluation Commission to the bid cities were wide-ranging. They covered areas such as venues, transport, and the education and cultural program that is seen as vital to rejuvenating interest in the Olympics.
Sorokin insists that Moscow has a “comprehensive” educational and cultural program. He says a new web portal will be launched on Dec. 20 “that will connect youth and attract them to sport”.
Athens also presented a good case for the 2010 Youth Olympics.
Minos Kyriakou, president of Athens 2010 and the Hellenic Olympic Committee, was among nine participants in the city's presentation.
“We explained that our
vision for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games is to create an event with global resonance, establishing strong foundations for the future,” he says.
The Greek city came third in the IOC's overall ratings of the bid cities last month. Among the concerns raised were a lack of innovation in its cultural and education program.
Athens officials made a point of addressing these issues Thursday, telling the Evaluation Commission of a newly devised set of initiatives, “many of which bring together the real and virtual worlds”.
These include development of an online social network where potential YOG participants and fans “can share their dreams and aspirations in the years leading up to 2010”. Also proposed is a multi-cultural street festival during the Games in the pedestrian zone on the southern slopes of the Acropolis.
Support for Athens came from IOC vice president Lambis Nikolaou, who participated from Lausanne. Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis recorded a message which was played as part of the presentation.
Speakers also included tourism minister Aris Spiliotopoulos, Petros Synadinos, former CEO of ATHOC, George Andreadis, vice president of the International Sailing Federation, and deputy mayor of Athens Vassilis Kikilias.
While leaders of the bids for Singapore, Bangkok and Turin were unavailable for comment, Thailand's campaign to stage the first summer Youth Olympics continued apace on the other side of the world.
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont led a parade through the streets of Bangkok Thursday to rally support for the bid. Around a 1,000 students took part.
“The government will fully support bidding for the Bangkok summer Youth Olympic Games and also hope that Thai nationals and media will wholeheartedly support Bangkok,” he told reporters.
The five cities could yet be cut by the IOC Executive Board following its appraisal of the Evaluation Commission's report in January. This will happen just weeks before the postal vote by the full IOC.
The summer edition of the Youth Olympics will be held in August 2010, featuring 3,500 athletes and 875 officials. Athletes aged 14 to 18 will take part in competitions in all sports on the Olympic program. With reporting from Mark Bisson.
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