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  • On the Scene in Istanbul: Challenging Times for Youth Olympic Games Organizers


    IOC Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli speaks at the EOC Assembly in Istanbul. (ATR)
    (ATR) Despite a slew of challenges ahead in fast-track preparations for the Summer 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, the IOC's Olympic Games executive director denies there are any major stumbling blocks to staging a successful event.

    When you put in place a structure for a new Games with 26 sports for the youth with different age categories and you want to do something new in culture and education if you say it's easy, no problem then you cannot appreciate it [the challenges], Gilbert Felli told Around the Rings Saturday.

    Speaking in Istanbul on the closing day of the European Olympic Committees general assembly, Felli said he was not concerned about the scale of the task ahead.

    He said the main challenges were to ensure the national Olympic committees and international sports federations fully understand the YOG concept and how they should prepare athletes "not only for sporting events but to try to achieve something on the cultural and education side."

    The first Summer YOG in the city-state is less than two years away. Each NOC can send a maximum of 70 athletes to compete in individual sports and a total of two teams to participate in the Games, which will include the participation of some 3,500 athletes aged 14-18 years. There will be 1,100 team officials.

    In an update on YOG preparations, Felli told the congress that quotas and qualification systems for different events and disciplines were being finalized. A draft sports program is currently in circulation.

    The IF/sport qualification systems will be submitted to the IOC executive board next month. NOCs are asked to submit preferences by sport/discipline for the four universality places guaranteed to each of them by February. Felli said the IFs had to work to a 14-month qualification period beginning next March.

    "It is not going to be easy for you, we understand that," he said.

    Despite the complexities of organizing the inaugural YOG, there were no questions from the 48 NOCs gathered at the assembly.

    Felli's remarks echoed those made by EOC president Patrick Hickey on Friday. "Coordinating two Olympic Games in one year will be quite a task for those NOCs that have a strong involvement in winter sports," Hickey said.

    Rogge yesterday expressed his satisfaction with the pace of Singapore's YOG preparations. His comments came in the wake of the first IOC Coordination Commission visit to the city-state last month.

    Singapore 2010 chair Ng Ser Miang today gave the organizing committee's first report to an EOC congress. Francis Chong, deputy chief executive, also spoke to delegates.

    Acknowledging the challenges confronting his committee, he underlined the commitment of the government and public support to make it a success.

    "The current financial crisis will not have any affect. Funding is already committed by the government," he confirmed.

    He later
    IOC member in Singapore Ser Miang Ng is leading preparations for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. (ATR)
    admitted to ATR that the biggest challenge is time, revealing that refinements to the YOG concept were ongoing ¬ including the cultural and educational components to make it more exciting and more fun for the athletes.

    Ng said upgrading of venues for the Games was on track; Singapore will use 24 venues for the 26 sports on the YOG program. The logo will be launched in January and the mascot one or two months later, he added.

    Meanwhile, Turkey's 2020 Olympic bid plans received a boost Saturday when Mario Pescante, Italy's IOC executive board member, and Hickey, IOC member from Ireland, gave vocal support for the country's sporting ambitions.

    Istanbul was an ideal candidate for 2020, Hickey told reporters. Pescante told ATR that a Turkish Olympics could provide a bridge from old to new civilizations. Turkey's President Abdullah Gul had announced to the conference Friday that his country was planning a bid for the 2020 Games.

    The EOC congress
    Turkish NOC President Togay Bayatli, EOC President Patrick Hickey and IOC member Mario Pescante, past president of the EOC. (ATR)
    concluded Saturday with the election of Utrecht in The Netherlands as host of the summer 2013 European Youth Olympic Festival. Brasov in Romania will stage the winter 2013 EYOF.

    Next year's EOC general assembly is in Lisbon, coinciding with the Portuguese NOC's 100th anniversary celebrations.

    YOG 2012 Hopes Raised for Kuopio

    Kuopio's reduced competition schedule in its proposals to stage the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012 is not a factor against the bid from Finland, according to Gilbert Felli.

    He told ATR that it should not dent Kuopio's bid chances because we said for the Winter Games that we are open, that maybe not all the sports will be there otherwise they [the YOG] will only go to cities who organize the [Olympic] Games.

    While there is no obligation to host all sports/disciplines on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic program, Kuopio's competition schedule does not include bobsleigh nor a number of Alpine skiing events. And this was noted in an IOC Evaluation Commission report of the 2012 YOG bids published last month.

    In the report, Austria's Innsbruck was ranked above its Finnish rival. The two-time Olympic Winter Games host (1964 and 1976) was said to present the least risk to the IOC.

    The two cities have been submitted to IOC members for a postal vote. The host city will be announced Dec. 12.

    The IOC launches the bidding process for the 2014 Summer YOG next week when a letter will be sent to all NOCs inviting candidatures by Feb. 2.

    Official Opening for Brussels Office

    Rogge and EU sports commissioner Jan Figel will officially open the EOC's liaison office in Brussels in a ceremony at the end of January. The EOC/IOC joint venture is an attempt to step up lobbying on sports issues at the European Parliament.

    With reporting from Mark Bisson in Istanbul.

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