POSTED: August 27th 2014

NEIL WILSON: The future of the Youth Olympics? Ask the kids.....

Only the kids can see into the future / Big stock
Only the kids can see into the future / Big stock

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Can any adult honestly say that they understand the goings-on of the next generation. Or, even less likely, of the one after next?

Hardly have we oldies found out how to programme a video recorder than we are being sold DVDs. Or how to use Twitter and Facebook than the youth of the world have moved onto Snapchat and Instagram.

The speed of change in social media is beyond us, and so it should be. My generation loved the Beatles but as soon as our parents found them acceptable we moved to the Stones. It was ever thus.

What this has to do with the Olympics? Well, the Summer Youth Olympics has finished its quadrennial appearance this week. Or perhaps you didn’t notice.

This is the introduction to the Olympic Games conceived for the youth of the world by the International Olympic Committee, a self-electing group of royals, aristos, politicians and former competitors as far removed from the youth of the world as it is possible to be. Average age of the members at the time of its conception?  61.7 years.

I remember the BBC appointing its first director of youth services. She was 41. The appointment was laughed out of court by the young and did not last long.

Now the BBC is taking off the air its youth channel BBC3. It was conceived by middle-aged Suits and the youth of Britain did not watch it. Indeed, recently at about the time the Youth Olympics was starting in Nanjing, its News Show which you might have suspected would be interested in a Youth Olympics registered a rating of zero.

Coverage of the Youth Olympics’ second edition in Britain was close to the same mark. According to the IOC, the BBC accredited 30 staff but their efforts must have been well hidden on the internet. For viewers, listeners and readers of the mainstream media, the Youth Olympics remained a mystery.

Now the IOC is re-considering its venture. “Nothing in this world is so good it cannot be tampered with,” said IOC president Thomas Bach, diplomatic-speak for “what the hell are we going to do with this issue”. His Agenda 2020 deliberations will consider that and, hopefully, resolve it in December.

What is wrong with the present model? Gigantism for one. The first two hosts, Singapore and Nanjing have taken the IOC at its word and tried to create another Olympic Games. The opening ceremony in Nanjing was a spectacular intended by the locals to rival Beijing’s in 2008. And starting with all 28 Olympic sports meant participation was spread too thin.

Do we need a Youth Games to inspire mid-teens to become Olympians? Role models with the celebrity of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt making ambassadorial appearances would inspire more for far less cost.  So would greater inter-action through You Tube. More accessibility at less cost to the IOC’s Olympic archive footage might also spread the message better.

One thing for sure – Bach would do best not to consult his membership, or even his membership’s children but their children’s children.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · Nanjing 2014 · Youth Olympic Games

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