Tom Degun: Innsbruck 2012 enhances the success story of the Youth Olympics
Monday, 23 January 2012
This is almost exclusively because between the dates of January 13 to 22, the Austrian city of Innsbruck staged a near perfect first edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Expectations for the event were high following the monumental success of the inaugural Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010 and despite the summer edition of the event looking increasingly like it will become a sought after competition, there have been concerns over whether the winter edition of the Games will take off.
These fears were heightened last year when Lillehammer in Norway were announced as the only bidder for the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics, and they were unsurprisingly awarded the event last month in probably the least exciting bid race in the history of the IOC.
So the pressure was on Innsbruck, and despite heavy snow leading up to the event causing much angst among the Organising Committee, they truly delivered.
The event worked so well simply because everything ran so smoothly against the unbelievably picturesque backdrop of Innsbruck's snow-topped mountains.
The performances were fantastic, the venues were superb, the internet was fast (and free), the buses ran like clockwork and the city is so small that every venue was only a 15 minute ride away from the centre.
An additional nice touch was to see the IOC members riding the same bus as the athletes, officials and media.
Such was the relaxed atmosphere as the Games, I would often find myself engaged in conversation with one of them which is a situation one won't encounter when the London 2012 Olympics get under in just over six months' time.
Access to the IOC hotel, which was the relatively modest Hilton, also came with ease and you wouldn't have realised you were in exulted company such was the vibe in Innsbruck.
In fact, the only individual to which access wasn't instantly available in Innsbruck was the IOC President himself.
But even he appeared unusually relaxed at all of his engagements and it is he who left Innsbruck with a bigger smile than most.
As the story goes, it was Rogge himself who came up with the idea of staging a Youth Olympic Games and despite some opposition for the concept from within the IOC, he finally saw his dream become reality in Singapore two years ago.
Singapore 2010 was undeniably a success but there were small criticisms about the costs for the event, which eventually escalated to $284 million (£183 million/€219 million), largely due to the spectacular Opening and Closing Ceremonies I witnessed first-hand on the Float@Marina Bay, the world's largest floating stage located on the waters of Marina Bay.
But it is hard to hold too much against the beautiful city because Singapore is too small to host the traditional Olympics.
The Youth Olympics was their pinnacle and they made the most of it.
But back in Innsbruck, the costs were nowhere near as astronomical.
The budget for the event stood at around $22.5 million (£14.5 million/€17.35 million) with a separate pot of $121 million (£77.9 million/€93.2 million) spent to construct the Athletes' Village, which will now be sold on as a residential plot.
Innsbruck already had a lot of existing infrastructure in place from hosting the traditional Winter Olympics twice back in 1964 and 1976 (when Games were much smaller) and the winter sport city used them to great effect.
Rogge stated his pleasure at the move, saying that using "existing infrastructure" is the key for the Youth Olympics, where costs should not be high and there should be no white elephants in sight.
Such words will be music to the ears of those at the British Olympic Association (BOA) who are contemplating putting forward a bid for the 2018 Youth Olympics, probably from Glasgow, who will have a lot of venues already in place from the 2014 Commonwealth Games, such as the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome (pictured below).
Glasgow could face tough competition for the event from Buenos Aires in Argentina, whose bid will be overseen by the formidable strategist Mike Lee, the former London 2012 communications director who masterminded the victorious campaigns for Rio 2016 and Pyeongchang 2018 following his win with the London bid team.
Medellín in Colombia are another confirmed bidder for 2018 with others likely to follow including Monterrey, Mexico and Dagestan, Russia.
Such a strong bid race would be a major boost to the IOC, even though Rogge himself admitted that the event makes no money for his organisation.
"The model of the Youth Olympic Games is not for the IOC to make a profit," he said.
"While there is interest for the Games from television and sponsors, it is nowhere near the interest there is for the traditional Olympics.
"But that is not the point of this event.
"The point is for the IOC to invest in the youth of the world."
Peter Bayer, the popular chief executive of Innsbruck 2012, told me as much when we spoke during the competition, though he suggested there would be long term economic benefits.
"Our financial model is not really focused on making profit because we know that these Games are something that will help us going forward as a region, as a city and as a nation," he explained.
"This competition is about proving that we are able to host big events and to show that we are a sporting country.
"It is also about helping tourism which is a very important source of income for us.
"So we want to use these Games to show everybody in the world that we have wonderful mountains and a lot of snow so that they come here and enjoy it."
Innsbruck have certainly done that, and now that they have successfully hosted the first edition of the Winter Youth Olympics, many more countries are likely to follow their lead in bidding for the event now that they won't be stepping into unknown territory.
"Innsbruck has been truly excellent and we have now had two fantastic inaugural competitions with the first Summer Youth Olympics in 2010 and the first Winter Youth Olympics here," Rogge said.
"These events now provide a template for future hosts."
It would obviously take a lot for Rogge to criticise his "baby" but for now, he can be proud of his achievement and certain that he has created something that will enhance his place in history.
At a press conference, I somewhat cheekily asked Rogge if he considered the event to be his greatest personal legacy to the Olympic Movement.
"This is not about my own personal legacy, but about creating a competition that will inspire the youth of the world," he said in a fashion you would expect of the IOC President, before he joked: "Besides, a legacy is for when you are dead, and I don't plan on that happening any time soon."
Fair enough, but Rogge can now rest assured that he has done something to match the achievements of his seven predecessors as IOC President by creating a phenomenon that he will be remembered for long after he steps down from the role in the summer of next year.
For that, he owes a huge thanks to Singapore and now Innsbruck.
Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames covering the 2012 Youth Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck