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  • Buenos Aires Memories, Inspiration


    (ATR) The city of Buenos Aires hosted the third edition of the Youth Olympic Games. It was deemed a complete success during the 12 days of competition in October. But where do things stand four months later?

    There was very little permanent infrastructure built for the Games. Organizers used existing sports clubs and national pavilions for Stand Alone venues and built temporary structures at Urban Park, Green Park and Tecnopolis Park.

    “The great experience with the way we managed the different parks was wonderful because when you put together temporary structures that cost is infinitely less, and when they are finished everything is removed and the lawn is cleaned. Also, the local spectators could get closer, it was much more urban, the YOG was a huge success", explained Gerardo Werthein president of the Argentine Olympic Committee.

    Werthein did not reveal the exact amount of money spent on the YOG or the investment needed to finish construction of the Youth Olympic Park.

    The YOG Village. (Olivia Diaz)
    The real investment and the biggest changes have come at the Youth Olympic Park, located in the district of Villa Soldati, an area in the southern part of Buenos Aires in need of development.

    The Youth Olympic Park consists of 32 hectares (79 acres) with nine new pavilions and new access roads. It is expected that this will become the new Argentine Sports Management Center when some additional modifications are finished. These include appropriate access for the disabled, new drains and sewers and adequate sports equipment for each discipline.

    This huge park construction was completed along with the Olympic Village across the road. The 1200 new apartments divided among 31 buildings were built as a real estate investment to offer cheap but good quality housing to the citizens of the area. These are going to be available between March and June when the last modifications are finished, including gas connections, the installation of countertops, furniture, kitchens, faucets, and basins, plus the interior painting.

    The government offers a loan plan with the National Bank to be paid back in 10 to 30 years, in order to sell the Olympic apartments and give the opportunity for young families to own a house. The cost for the apartments start at ARS$1.500.000 ($38,340) for a studio, while a two room runs ARS$2.150.000 ($54,954) and a three room ARS$2.850.000 ($72,846).

    “The country suffered really tough moments and the YOG lived through its consequences. But we’re happy with the results and hope everyone who applied for an apartment within the next months can finally move to their new home”, declared Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, the city councilor.

    The Legacy of the “Sport Initiation” Program

    While the economic repercussions of hosting the Youth Olympics may still be up for debate, there is little doubt that the event was a sporting success, thanks to the “Sports Initiation” program.

    The first part of the program, which began in 2014 and ended when the Games finished, was designed to get more young people interested in sport. Olympic athletes travelled around the country talking about their experiences and teaching children about their sports. The recruitment effort was especially successful in rural areas, where sports culture isn’t highly developed.

    Secondly, young athletes who participated in the Games received a scholarship from the government.
    YOG silver medalist Delfina Pignatiello. (ONS)
    In addition to spending four years training for the YOG, they assisted at schools and worked at sport clinics to further expose children around the country to sports.

    The young athletes were the face of the YOG for the host country. Despite the pressure, the team secured 32 medals (11 gold, 10 silver and 11 bronze) at the YOG.

    Swimmer Delfina Pignatiello had an outstanding performance winning silver medals in the 400 and 800 meters. She is 18 years old and is one of the national athletes with an enormous future ahead.

    Pignatiello, who will now start competing in the senior category, says “My focus now is the Pan American Games in Lima, and then I have a year and a half to think about Tokyo. I need to train to be the best version of myself, not only to beat my rivals.”

    Nazareno Sasia is 17 years old and won the gold medal in shot put, an unpopular discipline in Argentina.

    “When it was my turn to compete, I didn’t listen to anyone, and the audience was mute, but afterward I remember everyone clapping and singing my name. The Games gave us much popularity,” said Sasia. “I really enjoyed the YOG, living in the village, staying around other great athletes, learning from them. It was a dream. I hope to qualify to Tokyo; it’s one of my biggest dreams.”

    Jonatan Leyes finished fourth in the 56kg category in weightlifting. The 17-year-old, who comes from a family of limited resources, is a product of the ‘Sports Initiation’ program.

    While athletes enjoyed success on the field of play, the verdict is still out when it comes to the non-sporting legacy of the YOG. No one from the government has come forward to explain the real impact of the Games on the community. The media do not talk about the event anymore, and outside of the Youth Olympic Park and Olympic Village, little remains as a sign that Buenos Aires hosted the YOG just four months ago.

    Olivia Diaz Ugalde is a journalist in Buenos Aires. For general comments or questions, click here.
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