By Nick Butler

Lillehammer 2016 claim to have been energised by the visit of IOC President Thomas Bach to inspect preperations ©Geir Owe FredheimLillehammer 2014 have hailed a two-day visit by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, along with the latest IOC Coordination Commission inspection, as "energising the bid" with 18 months to go until the second Winter Youth Olympics begin.

During two days of visits, Bach inspected venues, met young athletes, and discussed contributions to the Olympic Agenda 2020 reform process with the Organising Committee. 

Following this the Coordination Commission, headed by four-time Winter Olympic ice hockey medal winner Angela Ruggiero, began two days of "progress updates, guidance and idea-sharing" with the Organising Committee.

Among matters up for discussion were initiatives designed to raise awareness of the Games, evident through a first major marketing partnership announced with Adecco, and measures to keep young people at the centre of all initiatives.

This has been shown by local college students and young designers creating the "look of the Games" through emblems and pictograms, unveiled by Bach, alongside young athletes, during his visit.

The Organising Committee also reported internal progress, including growth from four permanent members of staff to 20, and this will grow further to 90 during the Games, alongside around 2,300 volunteers.

With the venues being inherited from Lillehammer 1994, the future legacy focus is on the newly constructed Youth Olympic Village, which will be used as student housing before and after the Games, with specific plans being developed for overseas students to stay and train there.

Lillehammer 2016 will inherit the facilities used at the last Winter Olympic Games in Norway, in Lillehammer in 1994 ©Getty ImagesLillehammer 2016 will inherit the facilities used at the last Winter Olympic Games in Norway, in Lillehammer in 1994 ©Getty Images

"The progress made so far this year is impressive," Ruggiero, also vice-chairman of the IOC Athletes' Commission, commented. 

"This small team has really embraced the YOG (Youth Olympic Games) spirit, not just in their approach and engagement with young people, but also in the way they have put young people at the heart of the organisation while drawing on the rich Olympic knowledge existing in the area."

Thomas Holmestad, chief executive of Lillehammer 2016, added: "We are truly grateful for the open dialogue we have with the IOC, and we really appreciate how much the IOC prioritises the Youth Olympics.

"We are encouraged by the trust they show us by constantly challenging us to come up with new ideas for how the Games should be in the future."

The only possible disappointing factor for the Organising Committee will be that the visit, particularly that of Bach, was so overshadowed in Norway by focus on Oslo's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, which was the subject of almost every question from Norwegian media following the visit.

But compared to the criticism still being encountered by Oslo 2022, they must also be satisfied with the progress of the Games, due to take place from February 12 to 21 2016.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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