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Date
18 Apr 2011
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IOC News

Innsbruck is already buzzing with anticipation


As Innsbruck prepares to host the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games, Michael Stoneman visits the Austrian city for the Olympic Review to find out how the preparations are progressing.  

With less than a year to go until the first Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG), the Austrian city of Innsbruck is already buzzing with anticipation as it prepares to open its doors to the world's finest young winter athletes. Walking around the cobbled streets of Innsbruck’s old town, it’s impossible to escape the picturesque Alpine city’s link to winter sports, with snow-capped peaks rising in all directions and the futuristic Bergisel ski jump towering over the entire city.

An Opening Ceremony in the Bergisel Stadium

On 13 January 2012, the Bergisel Stadium will play host to the Opening Ceremony of the inaugural Winter YOG, signalling the start of a world-class sporting spectacle that will draw to a close 10 days later. “Just five months ago we celebrated the birth of the Youth Olympic Games with Singapore 2010,” said President Rogge as the one-year-to-go countdown began in January. “Innsbruck 2012 will continue this momentum over 10 action-packed days of competition. These Games, in addition to making their mark on Olympic history, will be a memorable and inspirational event for all the athletes and countless numbers of young people around the world.”

Over 1000 young athletes

Innsbruck 2012 will bring together over 1,000 young athletes, aged from 15 to 18, who will compete in the seven sports on the Olympic Winter Games programme, including a number of events that have been created especially for the Winter YOG. Running alongside the sports competition programme, these athletes will also participate in a unique Culture and Education Programme (CEP) during the Games, which will employ a variety of fun and interactive initiatives to raise their awareness of the Olympic values as well as different cultures and topics such as sustainability, the arts and digital media.

A unique atmosphere

As in Singapore, IOC President Rogge expects the young participants from around the world to revel in the unique atmosphere of the YOG and take away memories that will last forever: “Only some of the athletes won medals, but all of them won new friends. Many of the athletes met and were inspired by Olympic champions, but each of them learned what it takes to be a champion, both on and off the field of play. All of them are richer for having come into contact with peers from so many different cultures and backgrounds.”

Less than a year to go

With less than a year to go until the Games begin, all eyes are on Innsbruck to see how the preparations are progressing. The IOC Coordination Committee for the 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games, chaired by Gian-Franco Kasper, conducted its third visit to the city at the end of last year to see how the Organising Committee (IYOGOC) was making the transition from strategic planning to the operational phase of its plan. Having looked closely at IYOGOC’s plans, Kasper is confident that Innsbruck will deliver an unforgettable Games – not least for the athletes that will be taking part. “As the first winter edition, it will certainly be memorable,” he says. “However, the success will be measured by the positive experiences of the athletes themselves – who we hope will take back home their stories of the Games and share them with their friends, family and communities, encouraging and inspiring other young hopefuls.”

The countdown is on

Innsbruck previously hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1964 and 1976, and, with the countdown to the inaugural Winter YOG gathering pace, the Games have already brought a carnival atmosphere back to the city. In February, on the 35th anniversary of the last Winter Games to be held in Innsbruck, the city hosted a three-day Youth Olympic Games Festival, which saw thousands of young people enjoying a series of outdoor concerts and snow sports events, helping to build the growing level of excitement among the city’s residents as they look forward to next year’s Games.
“It’s a huge honour to be hosting the first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games, especially in Innsbruck where people know what it means to be an Olympic Host City,” explains Peter Bayer, CEO of Innsbruck 2012. “What I’m really looking forward to is when the Youth Olympic Flame finally arrives, because that’s when it all really starts. I’m also looking forward to seeing the youth of the world come together to celebr-ate their sports and their cultures. There is something magical about the Games and the atmosphere that will be created here will make Innsbruck an unforgettable place.”  With the clock ticking and anticipation building, the countdown to Innsbruck 2012 is well and truly on.

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