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  • Winter Youth Olympics Bids Promise Innovation


    (ATR) The four cities in the race to host the first-ever Winter Youth Olympic Games make the deadline to file dossiers with the IOC. The dossiers, running just under 100 pages, were filed by Kuopio, Finland; Innsbruck, Austria; Harbin, China and Lillehammer, Norway on July 19.

    “We are very pleased to have four candidates for the 1st Winter YOG ever”, commented IOC President Jacques Rogge on the confirmation of the candidatures.

    Similar to the Summer YOG requirements for Singapore 2010, the IOC demands a physically compact Games, sets a limited number of disciplines, bars new construction, and calls for a robust culture and education program.

    About 1,000 athletes are supposed to compete.

    Kuopio Bids from Finland

    The Finnish city of Kuopio pledges to exploit the country's status as a world leader in telecommunications technology to switch the younger generation on to the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012.

    “That is something where we are very strong,” Arto Ahola, a member of the Kuopio bid committee tells Around the Rings.
    Kuopio advertises at a ski jump event. (Getty Images)  

    He says interactive digital platforms will be used to engage youngsters around the world before, during and after the YOG as part of an innovative cultural and education program.

    Under the Kuopio bid, existing university student housing about 3km from the city centre would be rented out and turned into the Olympic Village, providing some 2,000 beds for athletes and team officials.

    No construction work is required, says Ahola.

    “We don't need to build anything. That is one of our strengths,” he says.

    A speed skating oval is already in the works and scheduled to open in 2009. But all other infrastructure is in place in Kuopio, a city of 100,000 people.

    “It is a very compact package,” says Ahola, adding that most venues are in the city apart from the “natural” luge track located 80km away.

    Alpine events would take place in Tahko, in the heart of Finland.

    “All our venues are within a one-hour radius from Kuopio,” he says.

    The two former former Olympic cities bidding to capture the YOG 2012 also boast compact venue concepts which lean heavily on the legacy venues from previous Games.

    Technology Push for Lillehammer

    The 1994 Olympic host has most of the facilities it needs for the Games. Construction of the Olympic Village is planned within the Olympia Park, while a curling venue will also be constructed if the bid is successful.
    A Lillehammer ski run used in 1994. (Getty Images)  

    The city and the town of Hamar along with the Hafjell alpine venue are proposed sites for sports events. The maximum distance from any one venue to others is 80km.

    “We have a well-equipped city for these Games,” Magnus Sverdrup, bid project manager, tells ATR.

    “We are very pleased with our concept. I think we have managed to balance the sporting aspects with the cultural and educational aspects of the Youth Olympics,” he says.

    “I think it's a fascinating technology concept in terms of a new way to get youth to consume sports digitally.”

    Lillehammer's bid book reveals details of a culture and education program spun around winter themes to catch the imagination of youngsters.

    Digital platforms will provide “added-value to the YOG 2012 in all phases, inviting youth from the entire world to join as virtual participants”.

    Young people will be asked to help develop the digital platform to ensure bid leaders keep pace with the latest social networking tools and other technological trends.

    All athletes participating in the Youth Olympic Games will be given a mobile terminal, according to the bid book.

    It will enable them to communicate via the internet with their new fans, training mates, leaders and families - a place “where they can make and publish photos, videos, blogs, discuss training, education themes and other ideas via their personal home page”.

    Innsbruck Offers Winter Experience

    The Innsbruck bid led by Leo Wallner, president of the Austrian Olympic Committee, offers a “significant measure of innovation”.
    Innsbruck is surrounded on all sides by slopes. (Getty Images)  

    Wallner says that having hosted the 2005 Winter Universiade - an event 50% larger than the Winter YOG - in many of the existing venues, Innsbruck provides a plan that is “proven and realistic”.

    The development of a 2,000-bed Olympic Village is at the heart of the plan, a project that will place all athletes within an average of 15 minutes of competition venues and leave a legacy of social housing after the Games.

    All the sports venues are concentrated in Innsbruck and Seefeld. Only the temporary curling sheet and one ice training rink would need to be built for the Games.

    According to Martin Schnitzer, chief executive of Innsbruck 2012, the City and the State of Tyrol has invested more than $225 million in venue and transport upgrades directly related to the Games in the last eight years.

    Recent infrastructure improvements include the new Bergisel Ski Jump and the Nordkettenbahn mountain train system, both designed by London 2012 aquatic center architect Zaha Hadid.

    The Olympic bob, luge and skeleton track at Innsbruck-Igls was also rebuilt for 2005.

    The culture and education program, which features a high-level of athlete-generated media content, will be anchored in the Innsbruck Congress Centre less than 3km from the athletes village.

    Chinese Winter Sport Newcomer in Harbin

    Details of Harbin's bid have yet to emerge. ATR's attempts to reach the Chinese Olympic Committee for information were not successful.
    Harbin holds an annual ice festival, featuring ice art. (Harbin 2009)  

    Harbin, which failed in a bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics, would have much of the infrastructure in place as a result of hosting the 2009 Winter Universiade.

    There is no venue for sliding sports, but other new constructions in the city and at the Maoer Mountian and Yabuli ski resorts are expected to feature in the 2012 bid.

    An IOC panel of experts will review the four bids and submit a report to the IOC Executive Board. A short list of finalists will be chosen by the executive board in August to be further assessed by an IOC Evaluation Commission.

    A postal vote of IOC members will be held in November, with the winner announced in December.

    The Winter YOG 2012 will feature around 1,000 athletes aged 14-18 competing in seven sports - skiing, ice hockey, biathlon, bobsled, curling, luge and figure skating.

    With reporting from Mark Bisson.

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