By Nick Butler at the Main Media Centre in Nanjing 

Lillehammer 2016 chief executive Tomas Holmestad is keep to replicate the Nanjing 2014 Sports Lab ©ITGTomas Holmestad, chief executive of the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympics Games, would love to introduce a Sports Lab similar to the one which has proved so successful here, although he admits it would be harder to adapt the concept to winter disciplines.

It is also a decision he says must be made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rather than the Organising Committee.

A concept introduced by IOC President Thomas Bach last December, the Sports Lab here  - showcasing roller skating, skateboarding, sport climbing and wushu - has been a major success, providing opportunities for athletes, officials and local people to try out new disciplines they may otherwise have not had the opportunity to take part in.

Holmestad admitted the concept had been "amazingly inspiring" and that he was "twisting his head" as to how they could do something similar in Lillehammer.

He cited ice climbing, ski orienteering and the popular Norwegian activity of dog-sled racing as three such possible events.

"So the sports lab is an amazing concept, and  I would love to do the same," he told insidethegames.

"I don't quite know how, but we will have discussions with the IOC to see how this is possible.

"Of course, here they are fortunate in that there are many Summer Federations who want to showcase themselves on the Olympic programme, and the situation in the winter is slightly different.

"The four sports here are also really good for that kind of showcasing.

"These are things the IOC needs to decide, but if the IOC wants to showcase sports in Lillehammer, we will be happy to enter into discussions with them."

Ice climbing was showcased in the Olympic Park in Sochi earlier this year ©UIAAIce climbing was showcased in the Olympic Park in Sochi earlier this year ©UIAA

The Winter Youth Olympic Games will be on a far smaller scale than here, with Nanjing 2014 having had around 350 employees at the two-years-to-stage in comparison with Lillehammer's 20, but Holmestad still believes they can emulate many aspects.

In particular, he cited the Youth Olympic Village, a "truly unique place to live and learn", as well as new disciplines within existing sports, including the mixed gender medley relay in swimming.

Many such events will be showcased in Lillehammer, including a cross-country cross race including small jumps and bumps, a monobob competition in bobsleigh, and mass start events in long track speed skating.

Now they have completed the conceptual side of preparations, specific operational planning is the focus of Lillehammer 2016, with 16 months to go until the nine-day competition is due to begin on February 12, 2016.

Holmestad claims the Games is not facing the same level of opposition that Oslo's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics currently is, but admits the biggest challenge remains raising awareness, particularly outside the region of Lillehammer, a winter sports hub which hosted Norway's last Olympic Games, in 1994. 

As well as social media and being present at many national and international events, this effort is including several young ambassadors and support from Crown Prince Haakon, a member of the Lillehammer 2016 Advisory Board. 

Holmestad is also hoping a Torch Relay consisting of five or six different Flame events in different parts of the country will be held to help spread the message and "move from a regional to a national event".

Lillehammer 2016 claim to have been energised by the visit of IOC President Thomas Bach to inspect preperations ©Geir Owe FredheimLillehammer 2016 claim to have been energised by the visit of IOC President Thomas Bach to inspect preperations ©Geir Owe Fredheim

With the future of the Youth Olympics a key part of the ongoing Agenda 2020 reform process within the Olympic Movement, Holmestad remains confident that the event has a place on the calendar.

"I think the Youth Olympics is here to stay and the idea behind it is really good," he told insidethegames.

"It is still a young concept that can be taken in very different directions in different locations, and it needs to be understood in that context.

"It could be down-scaled and made easier, easier on protocol aspects to make it more youthful and playful, and we at Lillehammer 2016 will make our contribution to bring the Youth Olympics in the direction we want to bring it in."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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