Rogge praises Youth Games, expects top athletes in 2014


Singapore : International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge Thursday praised the Singapore inaugural Youth Olympic Games, saying that some countries regretted not sending their best athletes to the event.

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Just hours before the closing ceremony, Rogge said the IOC was extremely pleased with the premiere of the Games, which brought together 3,600 athletes aged 14 to 18, competing in 26 sports and participating in a wide-ranging educational programme as a defining part of the Games.

“This Youth Games were definitely exceeding vastly my highest expectations,” Rogge said after the 12-day event, which was set to end with a glittering show and the extinguishing of the Youth Olympic Flame late Thursday.

Rogge praised the universality of the Games with 93 nations winning medals, but said that, although there were world-class contests, “a number of countries … have not sent their absolute top athletes.”

“They all told me that they regretted it, and that they have underestimated the scope of the competition,” he said, adding that the countries promised to send their best teams to the next summer games to be held in Nanjing, China, in 2014.

Rogge said he would travel to Nanjing Friday to start discussions on “how to organize the event and keep … the intimacy of the Games,” dispelling concerns that the Youth Olympics might get too big.

“These were very intimate games and athletes felt they were members of a family,” he said.

“All in all, we are happy,” said Rogge, who initiated the Youth Olympics and at first suffered much criticism over the concept.

But he refused to take the Games’ eventual success as a personal merit.

“I’m not the father (of the Youth Olympics),” said the IOC president. “There are many, many fathers.”

The two-track concept with a balance of competition and education marked a shift in the Olympic thinking and proved a winner at the Youth Games’ premiere, as Rogge said the education programme had been very well received by the athletes.

The IOC debuted some new formats in Singapore, including three-on- three basketball and mixed team relays in triathlon and swimming, which aroused excitement not only with athletes and spectators, but also with the IOC president.

Rogge said the new basketball format and the mixed relays “were very interesting.” He earlier said the IOC would now discuss how to adopt some of the innovations for the real Olympics and would also consider introducing a limited education programme to the senior Games.

The Singapore Youth Olympics, however, were not without controversy.

Originally estimated at 104 million Singapore dollars ($76 million), the Games’ budget skyrocketed and was expected to reach 387 million Singapore dollars, the city-state’s government said.

The ballooning costs provoked some anger in the tightly controlled city-state, with Singaporeans in some internet forums calling the project “a massive waste of money.”

German IOC vice-president Thomas Bach earlier warned that the financial requirements of the games should not limit future host candidates “to the same relatively small, exclusive circle of (developed) countries capable of holding Olympic Games.”

“A country which is able to organize Olympic Games should therefore not be considered as a host for Youth Olympic Games,” he said.

The Singapore Games were also overshadowed by politics just three days into the event, after an Iranian athlete withdrew from a taekwondo final against his Israel opponent, citing injury.

Israel officials, however, claimed there was a political motive for the pull-out as Iran did not recognize Israel as a state.

The IOC said an independent doctor confirmed the Iranian’s injury and there was no evidence for a political motivation.

“There is nothing to continue,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.