Innsbruck 2012: a memorable debut for the Winter YOG
From 13 to 22 January 2012, young athletes from all corners of the globe gathered in Innsbruck for the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games.
In 2012, Innsbruck, Austria’s fifth largest city and the capital of the federal state of Tyrol, played host to its third Olympic event, after the 1964 and 1976 Olympic Winter Games, the venues for which were modernised for the Winter Youth Olympic Games.
This grand festival of sport, culture and education was a resounding success, enabling 1,059 athletes aged between 14 and 18 from 70 countries, to become Olympians for life and strong advocates for the Olympic values, and to move a step closer to achieving their dreams of one day participating in the senior Olympic Winter Games.
The event’s cultural and education programme provided participants with invaluable insights into the various aspects that make up the life of an elite athlete, while big-name Olympians and young Ambassadors offered them indispensable guidance and inspiring advice, and stressed the importance of making the most of their YOG experiences.
In the sporting arena, Innsbruck 2012 saw the introduction of several never-before-seen events, some of which would later be promoted to Sochi 2014 two years later, such as the mixed relay in the biathlon, the mixed team relay in the luge, and men’s and women’s half-pipe skiing. The YOG also became the testing ground for some truly unique competitions, like the ice hockey individual skills challenge, and innovative figure skating and short track events, where young athletes formed teams that were not split along national lines, in a marvellous atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect.
Many athletes who made their names in Innsbruck are now regarded as major international stars in their chosen disciplines, such as figure skater Adelina Sotnikova (RUS), who won a YOG silver medal at the OlympiaWorld sports complex and was crowned Olympic champion at Sochi 2014, or Sara Takanachi, a gold medallist in ski jumping at Innsbruck 2012 who went on to win two consecutive FIS World Cup titles in 2013 and 2014.
Andreas Wellinger, who claimed gold with Germany in the mixed team jumping event in 2012 and then repeated the feat in the men’s team competition in 2014, and Petra Vlhová (SVK), who prevailed as a 16-year-old in the slalom at Innsbruck 2012 and picked up her first FIS Alpine Ski World Cup win in Åre (SWE) in December 2015, are two further examples of the stepping stone phenomenon.
“From all viewpoints, the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games have exceeded all of our expectations and laid solid foundations for future events of this type. We have seen some remarkable athletic performances in high-level competitions at these superbly refreshing Games,” said IOC President Jacques Rogge during the Closing Ceremony.
He continued: “Dearest athletes, your behaviour – not just on the snow and ice, but also as part of the cultural and education programme – is an inspiration to us all. You embody the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect. The success of these Games is down to you. It is your duty to take the spirit of Innsbruck back to your respective countries.
“By earning the title of young Olympian, you are role models for your generation. You have started something special in Innsbruck. No matter what happens in your sporting career from this point forth, all of you are equipped to become future leaders,” he concluded.
With just weeks to go before Lillehammer 2016 opens its doors, the spirit of Innsbruck 2012 will soon be recaptured in all its glory.