POSTED: May 11th 2010

JOHN GOODBODY: How Rogge is building on Samaranch's financial legacy in Singapore

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative, exclusive series only from Sports Features Communications

LONDON, May 11: The recent death of Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was president of the International Olympic Committee for 21 years, stimulated many obituaries, both critical and laudatory and most frequently a mixture of these two contrasting positions.

Much was made of his legacy to the Olympic Movement and it will be salutary to see if his successor, Dr Jacques Rogge, is able to command anything like the same appreciation when he gives up the post that he has held since he took over from the Spaniard in 2001.

One of Rogge’s unquestioned legacies will be the Youth Olympic Games, the first of which will take place in Singapore from August 14-26. This has been a pet project of  Rogge and he has driven it through despite some scepticism and indifference.

The purpose is not so much that the Games should stimulate international competition; it is rather that it should generate enthusiasm for the ideals of the Olympic Movement among the youth of the world and help arrest the tendency of many youngsters to give up playing sport, especially at the ages of 15 and 16.

This is a particular concern of IOC members and it was, coincidentally, in Singapore on July 6, 2005 that Sebastian Coe helped secure London getting the 2012 Olympics by stating that the ambition of London was to appeal to youngsters and excite them with the Olympic ideals.

Video mission

Last week, the 99-day countdown to the opening of the YOG was celebrated by a series of events, including the posting of videos on the IOC website interviewing two YOG Ambassadors, Michael Phelps, the American swimmer, and Yelena Isinbayeva, the Russian pole vaulter.

These YOG follow the success of the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney in January 2007, when 11 sports were held and that event was a trial run for what will take place in Singapore this year.

There will be 3,200 athletes and 800 officials in Singapore, competing in all the Olympic sports, with the age range between 14 and 18 years-old, the actual age bracket being settled by the relevant  international federation. The first Winter Youth Olympic Games will take place in Innsbruck in 2012 and will be smaller in numbers, just as the Winter Games are smaller than the Summer Olympics.

Apart from the competitions, there will be workshops on nutrition, healthy life-style, the environment and the fight against doping and the participants will be encouraged to become ambassadors in their own countries and to convey the key Olympic messages such as no discrimination on the grounds of race, religion or colour.

The IOC has insisted that existing facilities should be used for the competitions, so saving money on building new venues. However, the host city is responsible for the cost of the staging the event and also housing the teams. Also, the IOC is paying for the travel of the competing countries.

 It is significant that this support could only have been possible because the IOC now has plenty of money, from television rights and sponsorship, to bear the cost of this funding - and that is a further example of how the financial legacy from the presidency of Juan Antonio Samaranch is being enterprisingly used for the benefit of current and future generations.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2008 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 11th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.

Keywords · Goodbody · YOG · Youth Olympic Games · Singapore · Rogge · Samaranch · IOC

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