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  • One Year to Innsbruck, IOC Happy with Preparations


    (ATR) The IOC's Youth Olympic Games chief tells Around the Rings he is satisfied with preparations for the inaugural winter YOG in Innsbruck, just one year away.
    Essar Gabriel, the IOC’s head of the Youth Olympic Games. (ATR)

    "Yes, we have the building blocks and the planning side has been done well. Now they are looking to implement," Essar Gabriel told ATR at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne.

    He said Innsbruck had answered IOC concerns about construction of the Youth Olympic Village, the only project being built for the Games. The venue that will accommodate around 1,000 athletes for the Jan. 13 - 22 event is slated for completion in October, two months ahead of schedule.

    Gabriel said the challenge for 2012 YOG organizing committee led by Peter Bayer is to "integrate and embrace fully and totally" the IOC's YOG vision as it finalizes the Culture and Education Program for the Games and digital innovations to grow interest in the nine-day event.

    Gabriel admitted that raising awareness both within Austria and internationally was also a significant challenge.

    "They are planning to energize Austria starting today. Promotion is ramping up," he said.

    Festivities in Innsbruck included the unveiling of a countdown clock at 20:12 CET today by Tyrol governor Guenther Platter, and a gathering of Tyrolean Olympic medalists, media and other dignitaries, who were invited to try out some of the sports on the YOG program.

    The celebrations continue until Feb. 4, the 35th anniversary of the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. A Youth Olympic Games Snow Festival will be held, with thousands of young people attending outdoor concerts and snow sports events.

    The Innsbruck 2012 mascot, based on the “Mountain Goat” design voted for by the public in December, will also be unveiled.

    Athletes will compete in the seven sports on the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic program - biathlon, bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, luge, skating and skiing. A number of the 63 events will debut as an Olympic event, including: biathlon mixed relay; luge team relay; ski halfpipe; snowboard slopestyle; figure skating team event; ice hockey skills challenge; and women’s ski jumping.

    Gabriel said that in addition to mixed gender events, there will also be mixed national Olympic committee competitions.

    Bayer made his presentation to the IOC Executive Board Wednesday, announcing that the organizing committee’s budget had increase by $30 million. He also assured the IOC the YOG will stay within the IOC parameters.

    IOC president Jacques Rogge said: “Just five months ago we celebrated the birth of the Youth Olympic Games with Singapore 2010.

    "Innsbruck 2012 will continue this momentum over 10 action-packed days of competition. These Games, in addition to making their mark on Olympic history, will be a memorable and inspirational event for all the athletes and countless numbers of young people around the world.”

    Aside from the mascot launch, key milestones this year include the unveiling of dozens of athlete role models and the IOC's launch of YOG ambassadors in the summer.

    The IOC Coordination Commission will visit Innsbruck for its final inspection in September.

    The 2012 YOG torch relay takes place in December.

    Gabriel also commented on the progress of the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics project, saying planning was on track.

    Next week a Singapore YOG debrief will be held in the Chinese city.

    Singaporean IOC member Ser Miang Ng will join Gabriel and Olympic Games executive director Gilbert Felli at the two-day meeting. Organizing committee officials from the city-state and Nanjing 2014 YOG will also attend as part of the transfer of knowledge process.

    Written by Mark Bisson.

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