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Standing tall over the Austrian town of Innsbruck, surrounded by the snow-capped Tyrolean mountains, the iconic Bergisel Stadium has become a symbol of legacy.
The ski jumping venue hosted two Opening Ceremonies for the Olympic Winter Games (1964 and 1976) and in 2012 played its part again, welcoming athletes and fans alike to the first Winter Youth Olympic Games.
But it is not only the Bergisel Stadium that remains a reminder of Innsbruck’s strong Olympic heritage. Patscherkofel (Alpine skiing), the Olympic ice stadium (ice hockey and ice skating) and Seefeld (cross-country skiing) all made their Olympic comeback some 38 years after their Olympic debuts in 1964 hosting sporting competitions during the Youth Olympic Games.
As a direct result of hosting such legendary Games, Innsbruck has become recognised and revered for its world class sporting venues, with fans coming out in their thousands to cheer on their favourite athletes in competitions hosted throughout the winter season. The YOG added to this reputation with the addition of Kuhtai, one of Europe’s largest freestyle ski and snowboard parks.
The YOG also contributed to Innsbruck’s Olympic legacy through the optimisation of its carbon neutral Youth Olympic Village to benefit the whole community of Innsbruck. Just three months after the Games the Village was handed over to 444 families on low incomes who needed affordable homes.
But one thing all three Games left behind was a new generation inspired by the sporting achievements and Olympic values demonstrated by the athletes and city proudly living up to its name as the ‘Heart of the Alps’.
In 2016, Lillehammer will host the second Winter Youth Olympic Games. Central to the planning of these Games will be a strong commitment to respect and protect the environment; values that many organisations now strive to live by.
But back in 1994, environmental conservation was not so high on everyone’s lists, which made the work of the Organising Committee for the Lillehammer Olympic Winter Games even more commendable.
From using the stone from the building of the ski jumping venue to create the medals, to constructing the ice hockey venue, the Gjovik Olympic Cavern Hall, underground thus preserving energy, Lillehammer became known as the first ‘Green’ Games and set the bar for others to follow.
Speaking about this dedication to environmental protection, Gerhard Heiberg, IOC member and head of the Lillehammer Olympic Organising Committee, said: “The legacy of the 1994 Olympic Winter Games is alive, not only in Lillehammer and the areas around Lillehammer, but also in the Olympic Movement.”
Building on this legacy for a new generation, the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games will use the existing sports venues, which, when built back in the 90s, were integrated into the landscape of the small, picturesque Norwegian town as much and as sensitively as possible. The same green technologies are also still deployed at the Gjovik Olympic Caver Hall, which will be used for the short-track competition, with the venue heated by the energy provided from making the ice.
Lillehammer 1994 set a new standard for major sports events, sending out a strong message that environmental protection measures can and should be part of their operating mandate, and it is a message the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games look set to bring home again.