It’s hard to believe the Winter Youth Olympic Games are over. In what have been an incredible 10 days, dreams have come true, friendships forged and history made.
From the fittingly dramatic finale to the ice hockey competition, which saw a packed crowd on the edge of their seats for a penalty shootout between Finland and Russia, to YOG Ambassadors Yuna Kim and Lindsey Vonn visiting the Culture and Education Programme to talk to their fans, these Games have delivered memories that will last a lifetime.
The determination on Sara Takanashi’s face as she soared gracefully through the sky in the debut of women’s ski jumping; the speed skaters bracing the elements as they raced round the open air track; and the team work shown in the mixed country curling doubles despite language barriers were just some of the highlights that truly embodied the YOG spirit and led the IOC President to announce “I am a happy man.”
Innsbruck 2012 will also be remembered for the inclusion of the first ever mixed sport event, cross-country/biathlon; for showcasing the next generation of sporting dynasties such as Nina Prock, daughter of Olympian luger and Athlete Role Model Markus Prock; and for bringing young athletes face-to-face with their heroes with engaging projects such as the ARM lounge where all were encouraged to sign the YOG bobsleigh.
And whether they are returning home with a medal or not, all 1,000-plus athletes were true champions, while the city of Innsbruck itself, the host of the 1964 and 1976 Olympic Winter Games, has exceeded expectations once again. The iconic venues, the warm welcome, the simply breathtaking backdrop of the snow-capped Tyrolean mountains, the first Winter Youth Olympic Games could not have wanted for a more YOG-tacular host or YOG-tastic mascot (Yoggl, we will miss you).
Thank you, Innsbruck 2012. Next stop on the YOG train: Nanjing, China, for the second Summer Youth Olympic Games and then Lillehammer, Norway, for the next Winter Youth Olympic Games. We will see you there!