Paul OsborneI came to Nanjing slightly dubious about the whole Youth Olympic Games concept. An Olympic Games for the youngsters, great, of course, but strictly necessary?  Surely athletes who are going to make the grade for the "real" Olympic Games will already be competing in them at 18-years-old - Especially in this day and age...

It turns out, I was wrong. Now I'm not one to usually admit such a thing, but on this occasion I will make an exception.

After spending two weeks here in Nanjing, immersed in the life of the Summer Youth Olympic Games, it is clear that this event have a place on our sporting calendar.

Not only do they give valuable experience to the athletes taking part - experience they just wouldn't find at a major World Championships – but they also give an opportunity for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to try new things, be adventurous and plan for the future of the Olympic Movement.

From the IOC's point of view, I see these Games as somewhat of a testing ground. They are able to try things that they simply couldn't at a senior Olympic Games.

Take the Sports Lab for example. A brilliantly innovative idea on the part of the IOC which allows them to bring new sports into the Olympic programme on a demonstration basis. This in itself is not a new concept by the organisation. Demonstration sports had been part and parcel of the Olympic Games since Stockholm 1912, and arguably as early as Paris 1900, before being removed following Barcelona 1992.

The Sports Lab in Nanjing proved a huge hit with the public, and a certain IOC President, it seems ©ITGThe Sports Lab in Nanjing proved a huge hit with the public, and a certain IOC President, it seems ©ITG

The Sports Lab is somewhat different to a simple demonstration sport, however, as it combines four sports in a sizeable venue and provides public participation, as well as your simple competitive showing.

It provided a platform for these four sports to engage with both the public and the Olympic Games, enhancing the experience for sports and fan alike.

Even I, an athlete at heart but certainly not in skill, was able to "have a go" at one of the sports - climbing in this instance. This is the beauty of the Lab. It enables the sport in question to put on a show, demonstrating the elite aspect of their particular sport while providing a platform for the public to get engaged, get inspired and "get the couch potato of the couch" as a certain IOC President may say.

This then benefits the IOC's aim of involving the youth in sport and getting them committed to taking part and competing, while also benefitting the sport on show as they are able to grow in popularity and send a clear message to the IOC on why they should be considered for the programme of future Olympic Games.

Innovation has been a key theme of these Youth Olympic Games. Away from the Sports Lab you have new, if sometimes slightly bizarre, events in around half of the core Olympic sports, which have certainly brought a new element to the Games.

Innovations like the 8x100m relay race were massively popular with the 500 or so athletes competing in Nanjing ©Getty ImagesInnovations like the 8x100m relay race were massively popular with the 500 or so athletes competing in Nanjing ©Getty Images

The 8x100 metres relay event is an example of this. Quite a whacky idea to have 66 teams of eight competing in 10 heats down a 100m track. Certainly something that would never be seen within a mile of the Olympic Games, but an idea that, nonetheless, brought a fresh sense of excitement and good will to the Games.

The international mixed team events are another. These were all part of the Games' "friendship" theme which hoped to bring athletes and nations closer together through sport. What better way to do this than strap a bow to your arm and tell you that you're competing with a guy that doesn't speak the same language as you? You are forced to work together to do well which, inevitable brings you just a little closer to another person, another nation and another culture. Something the IOC was really trying to push here in Nanjing.

For me one of the highlights of these Games was the slight adjustments made to some sports in the effort to give them a "youthful" and fresh edge.

Instead of your standard hockey match, the International Hockey Federation decided, no doubt with the backing of the IOC, to bring in hockey5s - a five-a-side, power league version of the traditional sport. This slight (well maybe quite significant) change brought a completely new edge to the game of hockey. With the high-end, fast-paced and high-scoring sport proving a huge hit with the fans and most importantly, me.

New, dynamic twists on certain sports, including hockey gave a fresh and exciting approach to Olympic Games ©Getty ImagesNew, dynamic twists on certain sports, including hockey gave a fresh and exciting approach to Olympic Games ©Getty Images

Basketball was another to set aside its traditional 5-on-5 approach to the game and bring in the highly popular 3x3. Not only is this discipline already become a huge success globally, it also provided the International Basketball Federation the opportunity to allow more teams to compete here in Nanjing, and, in particular, teams that certainly would not have been here (not in the basketball competition anyway) had the traditional 5-on-5 game been played.

This innovation and fresh approach to the Olympics has to be the most satisfying thing about my two-week stay here in China. While the senior Olympic Games are always spectacular to watch due to the sheer sporting talent on show, these Youth Olympic Games brought a vigour and new sense of excitement for the future of the Movement. It made you look ahead to what could be, come Tokyo 2020 and Games beyond.

The Games gave an added importance to Thomas Bach's Agenda 2020 as athletes, sports and fans sit in anticipation for what is to become of future Olympic Games.

I for one would love to see more aspects of these Games brought forward for their older, more serious, sibling. A Sports Lab that brought user engagement and public participation would bring a whole new concept to the Olympic Games and certainly keep the fans happy. It would enable the IOC to solve the dreaded issue of incorporating more sports into the Olympic programme while giving the crowds something to do other than simple sit and spectate.

These Youth Olympic Games here in Nanjing have certainly opened my eyes to the vision of Jacques Rogge when he introduced this concept in 2007.

Although slightly grander than you might expect to see at a Youth Olympic Games - you would expect little else from the Chinese - and most likely the last Youth Olympics to be of such a scale, these Games have been truly spectacular.

They have brought all the good from the Olympic Games and added a highly welcomed twist that has brought both excitement and a wave of fresh ideas that will hopefully be expanded and moved forward in future Games to come.

And there will be future Games to come, that's for sure.

Paul Osborne is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here.