It was on 10 February 2010, just before the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, that the members of the IOC chose Nanjing as the host city for the second edition of the Summer Youth Olympic Games.
Founded thousands of years ago on the banks of the Yangtze river, and situated in the province of Jiangsu in eastern China, Nanjing is home to around eight million people, who are now preparing to host the biggest international sporting event of its history. A major university town, Nanjing has a lot to offer visitors, not least lush green parks, gorgeous lakes and mountains, and a host of culturally important sites, among them its ancient walls and numerous historic monuments.
The city also boasts a number of modern sports facilities, among them the Olympic Sports Centre, which comprises a magnificent stadium, a gymnasium, swimming pool and tennis courts, all located within a stunning 896,000 sq. m. site that also features parkland and lakes. Opened in 2005, it is the sporting focal point of the YOG, which will take place at a total of 35 venues.
Approximately 6,000 members of the Olympic Family (including athletes, coaches, officials, ambassadors and reporters) will be staying at the Youth Olympic Village (YOV). Located close to the Olympic Sports Centre, the YOV is made up of six residential buildings and four outbuildings, providing accommodation and a wide range of services and activities for young athletes from around the world. The hub of the YOV is the Youth Olympic Square, where most of the culture and education programme – which is based on the Olympic values of learning and sharing – will take place.
A vision for the future
Championed by Jacques Rogge, the IOC’s President from 2001 to 2013, the YOG officially came into being at the 119th IOC Session in Guatemala City in July 2007. The aim of the Games is to nurture young Olympians, to bring them together and instil in them the Olympic values of open-mindedness, sharing and peace, while giving them a taste of the Olympic Games proper. The aim is also to transform the participants into ambassadors of the Olympic Movement.
With this in mind, a key aspect of the YOG is the extensive culture and education programme laid on for the young athletes. Aged 15 to 18 and hailing from the five continents and over 200 National Olympic Committees under the IOC umbrella, they will be mentored by Athlete Role Models (ARMs), modern-day sporting legends who will be on hand to lend advice and inspiration. Also present to guide the competitors will be a group of illustrious sporting ambassadors that includes basketball player Yao Ming (CHN), and swimming star Chad Le Clos (RSA), as well as a number of young ambassadors aged 18 to 28, who will be on hand to offer guidance with the activities on the schedule.
The IOC has also set up a young reporters programme, inviting budding sports journalists from across the world to hone their skills by covering the YOG with the help of all the latest media tools and technologies.
Though the YOG’s sporting programme is based broadly on the Olympic Games – with 28 sports at the Summer YOG and seven at the Winter version – Nanjing 2014 will see some significant variations within each sport. Innovation is one of the watchwords of the YOG For example, many of the team competitions will be mixed events, with boys and girls – sometimes from different NOCs – joining forces.
Nanjing 2014 will also mark the reappearance of rugby (in the guise of the exciting rugby sevens format) and golf on the Olympic programme, after the two disciplines were approved for inclusion at Rio 2016 back in 2012.
There will also be a number of exciting sports taking centre stage as part of the new Nanjing 2014 Sports Lab which will see roller skating, skateboarding, sport climbing, and wushu (a contact sport based on Chinese martial arts) showcasing their sports at YOG. The world’s leading specialists in each of these disciplines will be showing what they can do, while also inviting young athletes to step up and have a go themselves, with fun very much the name of the game.
The stage is set
Scheduled to start at 20:00 local time on Saturday 16 August at the Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games promises to be a spectacular and unmissable affair. The IOC will be streaming the show live on its online channel, Olympic.tv, on www.olympic.org and on the official Olympic YouTube channel, with all three platforms providing coverage of all competitions from Sunday 16 August onwards. Followers of the official Olympic social network sites – over 45 million of them – will also be able to keep tabs on the 2014 YOG via Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.
Though only in their second edition, the Youth Olympic Games have already established themselves as part of the international sporting landscape by attracting an increasingly large global following, nurturing the development of thousands of athletes and inspiring young people around the world to get off the couch and get active.. As for the participants, the Nanjing Games are sure to be an unforgettable event, a springboard for their promising careers and an occasion that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.