(ATR) IOC President Jacques Rogge gushes praise for the Innsbruck Winter Youth Olympic Games, drawing to a close Sunday.
“These were ten glorious days, ” said Rogge at the start of a press conference on this final day of the Games. The IOC press release used the phrase “almost euphoric” to describe Rogge’s mood about these inaugural Winter YOG. His relaxed manner was emphasized by casual attire for an IOC President: an apres-ski sweater and no necktie.
IOC President Jacques Rogge at the closing press conference. (ATR)
These Games featured 1,000 athletes from 70 nations, competing in a slimmed-down version of the traditional Winter Olympics program. YOG athletes range in age from 14 to 18. The Innsbruck Games follow by two years the first YOG, held in Singapore for the Summer Olympic sports. The YOG are the creation of Rogge, who lobbied for the event as a way to help inspire and instill Olympic values in young elite athletes.
“We had an excellent Games,” said Rogge. “The organizing committee did an excellent job. The athletes were happy and we saw top sports.”
Rogge, when asked by ATR, about the impact and influence that the YOG might have on the traditional Games, responded, "I think over time we will see more events that are being organized at the Youth Olympic Games, transported to and also organized at the traditional Olympics."
"We have seen three here - slopestyle snowboard, mixed biathlon relay and women's ski jumping," he said regarding the new events which are also part of the Sochi 2014 program," he added.
Rogge spoke about the emergence of Asian countries at the WYOG and mentioned the unexpected gold and silver by Morocco and Belgium in alpine skiing and a bronze from Monaco in men’s bobsleigh.
He said that the Culture and Education program, which was housed at Congress Innsbruck, was also a great success.
“More than 76% of the athletes participated spontaneously,” he noted.
Rogge proceeded to mention that he’d like to see the Culture and Education Program instituted in the traditional Games adapted to the mean average age of Olympians of 23 to 25.
He said that while the time was too short to include in London this summer, Sochi 2014 is a possibility.
Sixty-three events in 15 disciplines took place at nine venues, including the medals plaza in Innsbruck and at the neighboring mountains over 10 days.
“We were presently surprised by the attendance of events here in Innsbruck,” saying there were 110,000 spectators in total.
He also said that new events like slopestyle and hockey skills challenge were well received as were the mixed NOC and dual gender events.
Other numbers and statistics about the Games mentioned by Rogge included: 8.5 million Facebook fans, 14 million YouTube views, 69 countries broadcasting the Games and over 900 accredited media.
Innsbruck 2012 CEO Peter Bayer also briefly addressed the media, “I think that you could see that from the very beginning that everyone had smiles on their face,” he said.
“We had almost zero dropout from the volunteers which shows the enthusiasm everyone had for this project and we also didn’t have any serious injuries which was also very important for us.”
Rogge proceeded to speak of the larger picture and future for the Youth Olympic Games adding that small to mid-size cities hosting the Games moving forward will be ideal and to keep costs reasonable they will target cities which already have the necessary venues in place.
“We don’t want a stadium for 80,000,” said Rogge referring to a venue for the opening ceremonies. Begisel Stadium with 15,000 was ideal,” he said about Innsbruck’s opening ceremony which took place nine days ago.
“We prefer to have full small stadiums than big empty stadiums - the atmosphere is important,” he added.
Both Bayer and Rogge say every effort was made to keep costs under control.
Bayer said that of the 24 million Euro cost for the Games, six million came directly from the IOC.
Rogge noted that the IOC also paid for transportation to the Games of athletes and officials in addition to accommodation costs.
Overall, Rogge estimated the total cost at 15 million Euros spent by the IOC.
“We are not here to make money, we’re here to invest in the youth of the world,” emphasized the IOC President.
Rogge, 70, became even more enthusiastic and energetic as he continued to discuss the initial success of Youth Olympics.
Preparations at the stage for the closing ceremony Sunday night in Innsbruck.(ATR)
“The fun factor is very important, we want the Youth Games to be fun.” he said with a smile.
Following these Games in Innsbruck, the Youth Olympics will continue with the next summer edition taking place in Nanjing, China in 2014 followed by Winter Games of the 1994 Olympic city of Lillehammer, Norway, occurring in 2016.
“I will conclude by saying I believe that the future of the Youth Olympic Games is very bright,” said the IOC chief.
Written and reported in Innsbruck by Brian Pinelli.
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