Tom Degun: Fierce three-way battle ahead in the race for the 2018 Youth Olympics

Friday, 22 February 2013
Tom Degun ITG2Although the main focus of the media earlier this month was on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board decision to recommend wrestling for removal from the Games, the ruling elite of the Olympic Movement made another key decision in Lausanne.

That decision was to shortlist just three bids for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

The bids were Buenos Aires, Glasgow and Medellín, with the two cities of Guadalajara and Rotterdam unceremoniously dropped due to the fact that both are struggling financially.

The decision came after the IOC Executive Board reviewed a report by the IOC Working Group, chaired by Germany's Claudia Bokel.

So what's next?

"An Evaluation Commission will now conduct further assessments of and hold video conferences with representatives from the three shortlisted Candidate Cities before submitting a report to the IOC members, who are scheduled to elect the host city at an Extraordinary Session in Lausanne on 4 July 2013," an IOC statement said.

Only two key dates remain.

The first is June 2013 (no specific day as yet) where the report by the IOC Evaluation Commission will be published before that all-important day on July 4, when the winner is announced.

The Youth Olympics itself still does not have the full backing of every IOC member but it will perhaps be the most tangible legacy of current IOC President Jacques Rogge, who will step down later this year.

Rogge is not a man known for his constant smiling but never have I found him more happy or approachable than at the first summer and winter editions of the Youth Olympic Games at Singapore 2010 and Innsbruck 2012 respectively.
 
Jacques Rogge Innsbruck 2012The Youth Olympic Games are credited as being the brainchild of current IOC President Jacques Rogge

In fact, the vast majority of IOC members seem to enjoy the relaxed, upbeat atmosphere created by the Games after two successful outings. Next up is Nanjing in 2014 before a Winter Youth Olympics in Lillehammer in 2016. But where the third Summer Youth Olympics go could truly help define the event.

The three remaining candidates all present strong but very different options.

First up is Buenos Aires, who are said to be eyeing the event as a way to tee up a bid for the full Olympic and Paralympic Games.

They are marketing their bid as a way to help spread the Olympic Movement across South America, tying it in with the fact that nearby Rio is staging the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.

They are being spearheaded by Argentine Olympic Committee (COA) President Gerardo Werthein, who is of the rising figures in the IOC.

"Buenos Aires and Argentina are ready to host the Youth Olympic Games in 2018," he says. "The Olympic Movement can trust Buenos Aires to deliver a truly wonderful Youth Olympic Games that will make the sporting world proud of this new international celebration of sport and culture."

Next up is Glasgow, looking to build on the magnificent London 2012 and the upcoming 2014 Commonwealth Games in the Scottish city itself. Technically, this is the strongest bid of the three given that all the facilities will pretty much be in place due to the Commonwealth Games.

But their trump card will be the fact that London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe is now heading the bid, due to the fact he has become British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman.

Coe's standing in the IOC could not be higher right now after he delivered arguably their greatest ever Games last year. The entire IOC owe him a debt of gratitude and Coe standing on the stage in Lausanne this July will no doubt bring back found memories of the way he helped London win their 2012 bid when he took to the stage in Singapore in 2005.
 
Sebastian Coe 3Sebastian Coe, the chairman of London 2012 and the BOA, could prove the trump card in the Glasgow 2018 Youth Olympic Games bid

"It is an honour to have Glasgow shortlisted to host the YOG in 2018," said Coe. London 2012 inspired young people like never before and there is now a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the UK to take the next step on the Olympic journey to empower young people globally."

Powerful messaging indeed; and given that the Glasgow 2018 bid will be armed with another heavyweight in the form of Scotland's IOC vice-president Sir Craig Reedie, the city can be forgiven for being quietly confident.

Last up is Medellín, who were for so long the dark horses in this race but who now must be respected and even feared by the two more established sporting cities.

The second largest city in Colombia hopes that staging the Games will showcase its remarkable renaissance.

Once the centre of the country's drugs trade, the Medellín Cartel was at the height of its operation making $60 million (£39 million/€45 million) a day exporting illegal substances around the world. But in the last 20 years the city has undergone a miraculous transformation, dubbed the "Medellín Miracle" and this year has been as announced as the Latin-American Capital City in Innovation due to their recent advances on politics, education and social development.

"This is a wonderful experience, and a dream that Colombia has had for several years," stated Andres Botero Phillipsbourne, Colombia's Sports Minister, who is also a member of the IOC.

"Medellín is now on the global sporting map. We know that our capabilities are equal to other major cities. We expect a serious campaign from Glasgow and Buenos Aires and we are committed to show that Medellín is the perfect place to bring the Youth Olympics."
 
Medellin 2018Medellín are looking to use the 2018 Youth Olympic Games to showcase its remarkable renaissance from a major drugs capital to a big tourist destination

In this, the year of the Olympic elections, rumours are already rife that block votes are being traded in favour of votes for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics and the IOC Presidency later this year.

What that leaves is the strongest Youth Olympic bid race ever, and perhaps the toughest of all the IOC election races to pick this year.

The fact of the matter is that all three have great credentials and could all stage fantastic events.

And that what makes this race so wonderfully compelling.

Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames. Follow him on Twitter.
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