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IOC to approve Youth Olympics


Hamburg : The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is expected to approve a proposal to launch Youth Olympics from 2010 at its congress later this week.

At the annual IOC session in Guatemala beginning Wednesday, members will be asked to vote on a proposal by the executive committee to hold a summer and winter games for young people between ages 14 and 18.

IOC president Jacques Rogge sees the event as a "new challenge for sport", hoping it will encourage more people to leave their computers and TV screens and embrace the Olympic movement.

In a recent interview with France's L'Equipe sports newspaper, the 65-year-old Belgian said he had been working on the project since he took office in 2001. He hopes it will prove to be a legacy of his period as IOC chief, a term expected to last until 2013.

The proposal envisages the youth games beginning in the summer of 2010, followed by the winter version in 2012. A two-year rhythm will follow, as with the regular Olympic Games.

Only Olympic sports will be featured, and the IOC would endeavour to avoid a nationalistic fervour by featuring the Olympic anthem and flag instead of the national emblems.

To prevent the youth games becoming bloated, participants would be restricted to 3,000 for the summer games and 1,000 for the winter version. Existing venues and infrastructure would be used and the budget limited to some $ 30 to 40 million for the hosts. The IOC would pay the travel and accommodation costs.

If approved, the IOC executive committee will choose the first venue at the end next year. Rogge says cities, which do not have the capability to host normal Olympics would be chosen. Already, Moscow and Singapore have expressed an interest.

Rogge believes the youth games should have an educational character rather than become an elite event for top young performers.

"The main aim is to give young people an educational foundation based on Olympic values – friendship, fair play, the rejection of violence and all types of doping," he said.

However, sceptics see a danger of such a global event under the auspices of the Olympic movement adding to scheduling and competitive pressures on young people with attendant early doping risks.

IOC vice-president Thomas Bach said the event could make Olympic sports more attractive to young people, but it was important it did not become a mini version of the Olympic Games.

"The pressure on young people to perform should not be increased even more, otherwise the doping problem could begin earlier," he said.

It will also be important to coordinate closely with international sports federation to avoid over-crowding the calendar, Bach said.

That won't be easy. Several sports federations already hold youth championships at national, continental and global levels. A youth Olympics might mean some of them having to be scrapped altogether.