Buenos Aires set for twists with new events
Six dynamic new events will be introduced at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires 2018. Futsal will replace football; handball will move outside to the beach; and acrobatic gymnastics is a spectacular addition to the gymnastics programme. BMX freestyle park and kiteboarding are introduced in cycling and sailing, while the rowing is set to be a showcase of speed and power, with the course just 500m in length.
Futsal to bring skills and thrills
Futsal is a five-a-side format and the only form of indoor football approved by world governing body FIFA, with an emphasis on technique, creativity, improvisation and ball control. It replaces 11-a-side football contested at Singapore 2010 and Nanjing 2014.
Its origins can be traced to South America in the 1930s. Argentine-born coach Juan Carlos Ceriani devised a variation of the 11-a-side game for indoor competitions in YMCAs in Montevideo, Uruguay, while a game was also developing on the streets of São Paulo, Brazil.
The format soon spread through South America, and later greats like Pele, Zico, Socrates, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo honed their skills playing the indoor game.
The futsal competitions will take place at the Tecnópolis Park and in the Green Park at CeNARD (Argentina’s National Centre of Elite Sporting Performance). Ten teams will participate in each of the men’s and women’s categories, with each side comprising 10 athletes, with five on the pitch at any one time and five substitutes. Each match will comprise two periods of 20 minutes.
There are an unlimited number of substitutions and no offside rule, and each team may request one time-out per half.
If a team commits more than five fouls in one half, subsequent fouls in that half result in penalty kicks from the second penalty mark.
Handball hits the beach
Beach handball will replace the indoor format, with the action taking place at the Tecnópolis Park.
Beach handball has its roots in Ponza, an island off the west coast of south-central Italy where, on 20 June 1992, Italian handball executives Gianni Buttarelli and Franco Schiano conceived the concept of “handballbeach” to overcome the lack of indoor courts on the island.
The first tournament took place a month later on Ponza, with five teams competing on a floodlit court on the beach at San Antonio. The inaugural international competition was held in Rome a year later, and today more than 110 national federations play beach handball.
A total of 216 athletes – split equally between men and women – will participate in Buenos Aires in a 12-team tournament per gender. Each team comprises nine players with four on court (three outfield players and a goalkeeper), with the playing time consisting of two periods of 10 minutes as well as a five-minute half-time break. Each period is scored separately, and the winner of each period is awarded one point. In the event of a tie, the players from each side go one-on-one with the opponents’ goalkeeper in a penalty shoot-out.
The scoring in beach handball is different from regular handball, as goals scored by a goalkeeper count for two points, whereas an outfield player scores one point with a goal. However, there is an exception to this, because when an outfield player scores a creative or spectacular goal (such as alley-oops or 360° turns) the player will score two points.
Acrobatic gymnastics tumbles onto centre stage
Acrobatic gymnastics will make its debut as part of the gymnastics programme.
Twelve mixed pairs will compete in the qualification round, with eight pairs progressing to the final, where they will compete for the right to be crowned inaugural acrobatic gymnastics champions.
The pair will perform three routines to music – balance, dynamic and combined – which require and showcase strength, flexibility and trust, with athletes relying on their partners to catch them and throw them high into the air.
Balance routines are assessed on strength, flexibility, agility, stationary holds, mounts and motions, while dynamic routines involve spectacular somersaults and tumbles.
Combined routines involve both balance and dynamic elements.
Rowers set for oar-some races
Rowing featured at the YOG in 2010 and 2014, with races taking place over 1,000m.
In 2018, the events will take place in the centre of the city, at the Urban Park in Puerto Madero. The course is shortened to 500m in length, ensuring tight races of speed and power, with the emphasis on a good start, across four lanes.
The regatta will be preceded by a time trial to determine who will progress to the next round of heats. Each crew will row alone from the finish to the start, around a buoy and back to the finish over a distance of approximately 900m.
The distance also differs from Olympic competition, where crews race over 2,000m.
There will be four medal events – the men’s and women’s single sculls and pairs – with rowing having always had a gender equal number of competitors at the YOG, something that will happen at the Summer Games for the first time in Tokyo in 2020.
On your bike
Cycling has featured at the previous two editions of the YOG, and in Buenos Aires BMX freestyle park will join the event programme. It will be a great taster for athletes and spectators alike, with the event also being contested at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Freestyle park is a mixed team event, with eight teams composed of one man and one woman competing from the same or different NOCs.
It is an exciting, fast-paced event, with each rider having two one-minute runs in which they perform aerial tricks and jumps over ramps with steep transitions and other obstacles such as kerbs, rails and walls.
Judges award a score of between 0 and 100 points based on a number of factors, including difficulty, originality, style and execution. The scores given by all the judges for each athlete are then averaged, and this average score is the official score.
The names of the riders’ tricks have also given rise to a whole new vocabulary, from barspins and bunnyhops to can-cans, half-cabs and tailwhips.
The bikes are small with 20-inch wheels, meaning they are easier to move around for tricks, and they are light, with aluminium frames weighing as little as 12kg.
The event first emerged in the 1980s, when BMX racers started doing tricks at competitions.
Kite flies on the water
Kiteboarding will join the sailing programme. While the previous two editions of the YOG have included the men’s and women’s one-person dinghy and windsurfing, Buenos Aires 2018 will instead see a mixed two-person multihull event, as well as kiteboarding and windsurfing.
Kiteboarding is a new discipline, developed from the 1980s onwards with inflatable kites and boards evolving all the time. It is a spectacular action sport, with the kiteboarder harnessing the wind to propel themselves across the water, combining speed, jumps and tricks.
The sailing events will be held at Club Náutico San Isidro, with the kiteboarding course shorter and closer to shore than the fleet racing, although it may include obstacles designed to challenge the athletes in stronger winds.
The best athletes from the fleet racing will be placed into semi-finals, where the best two in each semi-final will progress to the final. In the final, the winner takes all, as all points are dropped and the first to cross the finish line will take home the gold medal.