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Volume 7 No. 149
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Youth Olympic Games Serves As Testing Ground For IOC

The focal point of the Youth Olympic Games opening ceremony was the Buenos Aires Obelisk.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Youth Olympic Games got underway in Buenos Aires on Saturday with the first Olympic opening ceremony to be held on city streets. The event, which was free to the public and attended by more than 200,000 people, served as the starting point for the fifth Youth Olympic Games, which have brought together athletes aged 15-18 from more than 200 countries. IOC Olympic Games Exec Dir Christophe Dubi likened the convergence of young athletes in an Olympic context to an incubator, where the governing body and int'l federations can test new sports, disciplines and operations while participants make their introduction to the world stage.

The first edition of the Youth Games was held in Singapore in '10. The competition allows young athletes, coaches and volunteers to participate in a global spectacle against the backdrop of the Olympic Movement. Like their senior counterparts, participants live together in a village during the two-week competition, while also participating in athlete education activities promoting Olympic values such as the fight against doping and prevention of harassment. Additionally, the Games provide athletes with new opportunities like playing in front of large crowds and interacting with media. "This is a fantastic accelerated learning curve," Dubi said.

3x3 basketball was first tested by the IOC at the 2014 YOG, and will be part of the Tokyo 2020 program.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Youth Games are being broadcast globally through various outlets including the Olympic Channel, which is also streaming the competition online. The broadcasting operations are being partially executed remotely out of Madrid, which is home to the Olympic Broadcasting Services HQ. It is one example of how the IOC is using the event as a testing ground for its core operations. "This is something that can reduce the footprint in the future and be a great solution for the organizing committees as well," Dubi said. "We have a quality of broadcasting that is stunning for an event in this age group." In all, 21 different sports from the Youth Games are being broadcast live via the Olympic Channel and various networks including the BBC.

The global coverage has helped generate a surge in sponsorship interest for the Games. "What we see is with the interest growing in the Youth Games, more and more [sponsors] are contributing actively," Dubi said. Although IOC sponsors whose commercial deals include the Youth Games are not obliged to participate in activations during the event, Buenos Aires 2018 will feature active participation from: Coca-Cola, Atos, Bridgestone, Omega, Intel, Toyota, Samsung, Panasonic, Dow and Visa.

Dubi stressed an overarching theme of the Youth Games is inspiring youth, which the IOC hopes to achieve by staging events surrounding the Games to encourage participation in sport. He said, "If we can have an impact -- and I'm sure we do have an impact at this level -- we have then ticked all the boxes."