The idea of Youth Olympic Games or YOG is relatively new and it was mooted by an Austrian national Johann Rosenzopf in 1998. Rosenzopf communicated his concept to the Austrian Olympic Committee, which in turn forwarded his idea to the International Olympic Committee. Rosenzopf believed that institutionalizing YOG for children in the age group 0f 14-18 on the lines similar to the traditional summer and winter Olympic Games would inculcate values of camaraderie and overall physical well-being of the participants.
In 2007, the IOC approved Rosenzopf’s concept of YOG and its first summer edition was held at Singapore in August 2010. The event attracted participation of 3600 from all over the world. Likewise, inaugural winter YOG were held at Innsbruck in January 2012. The YOG have several commonalities with Olympic Games such as sports competitions for both summer and winter games. But the main difference between YOG and traditional Olympics lies in the extra element of health education to the young competitors. The participants are taught about leading a healthy lifestyle and putting Olympic values into practice in their daily lives. The YOG participants are encouraged to interact with their counterparts from different parts of the world and learn about other cultures. Just as the Olympic Games, YOG too have a four-year frequency. In a nutshell, the concept embodied in YOG is a stepping stone for integrating a unique Culture and Education Programme (CEP), which derive strength from the five main themes of the Olympic Games namely: Olympism, Social Responsibility, Skills Development, Expression and Well-being and Healthy Lifestyles.
While most sporting events in YOG are similar to Olympic Games, some specific events make the YOG unique. As an example, YOG have swimming and diving but not water polo. Other different YOG events include figure skating, sailing, table tennis, curling, and mountain bike competitions in slightly different formats. In addition, some YOG events like Archery, table tennis, and fencing involve young men and women competing against one another. The mixed gender competition contributes to the efforts of the YOG to introduce the participants to people of different cultures. When the first YOG were held in Singapore in 2010, IOC President Jacques Rogge declared in an official statement that Johann Rosenzopf was the initiator of the idea of YOG and added that Rosenzopf had made a major contribution. The IOC conceded that Rosenzopf’s concept would provide significant impetus to the global vision of creating YOG.
The second edition of Summer YOG concluded in Nanjing, China with a glittering closing ceremony on August 28, 2014, after 12 days of superb sporting competitions, some of them quite unique. There were more than 3,800 participants in the Games, which also featured cultural and educational activities. 3×3 basketball continued after its highly successful debut at Summer YOG of 2010 in Singapore. Nanjing YOG included hockey 5s, 8x100m relay in an urban venue and a basketball skills contest. Rugby and golf entered Olympic events for the first time ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. There were several unique mixed-country and mixed-team competitions in Nanjing as well. In his address in the closing press conference, IOC President Thomas Bach referred YOG as Games of innovation. Bach also urged young athletes to share their YOG experience and extend the hand of friendship for inspiring their communities back home.
From August 24 until the run up to the closing ceremony, several athletic events brought color to the Nanjing YOG. Zambia’s 16-year old Sydney Siame became world’s fastest child by winning the 100 metres final in 10.56 seconds. In women’s 100m, China’s Liang Xiojing finished in 11.65 seconds to win the gold. British gymnast Giarnni Regini Moran won two gymnastic golds in men’s floor and all-around events. In women’s gymnastics, Russian girl Seda Tutkhalyan also won two golds in all-around and uneven bars.
16 year old Salwa Naser did Bahrain pride by clinching a silver in women’s 400 metres. She finished marginally behind australia’s Jessica Thornton of Australia, who clocked 52.50 seconds to win the gold. In men’s shot put, Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki hurled the shot 23.17 to win the gold with a good 2 meters ahead of the Romanian Andrei Rares Toader. In women’s high jump, Ukrainian girl Yulia Levechenko cleared 1.89m to win the gold, followed by France’s Nawal Meniker and Czech Republic’s Michaela Hruba. Japan’s Minoru Onogawa won the gold in men’s 10000m walk, Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia won men’s 3000m, Hlib Piskunov of Ukraine won men’s hammer throw, Alena Bugakova won women’s shot put, Alexandr Lifanov of Russia won gold in men’s modern pentathlon and in women’s 1500m, Ethiopian girl Tesfaye Kokeb took the gold.
In men’s 200m, Noah Lyles won the gold in 20.80 seconds, ahead of Bostwana’s Baboloki Thebe and Chinese Taipei’s Yang Chun-Hanoki. Women’s 3000m was won by Japan’s Nozomi Musembi. In men’s 400m hurdles, China’s Zhihang Xu won the gold in 50.61, Tunisia’s Mohamed Fares Jlassi was second and France’s Victor Coroller third.
Unlike traditional international sports meets, YOG didn’t have any official medal tally. Though China topped the medal score, the organizers insisted that YOG was not about results and performance but more about experience, learning and getting to know the future. The winners were awarded medals just as a means of encouraging them to excel in future. For this reason, the national anthem and flag raising ceremony did not take place during the presentation of medals to the winners.
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