Liam Morgan

My interview with Lausanne 2020 chief executive Ian Logan begins slightly later than scheduled as the Organising Committee is dealing with a crisis. Someone has been grilling hot dogs on the Olympic flame in the city.

Instead of reacting with disdain and dismay at a couple of miscreants turning the flame into an impromptu barbeque, Lausanne 2020 opt for the humorous approach. "Bon appétit," comes the tongue-in-cheek reply to an enquiry sent to the communications team.

It is not only for this reason that Logan is smiling. The Lausanne 2020 chief claims the Winter Youth Olympic Games which conclude here on Wednesday (January 22) have been a "massive success", an opinion few would disagree with.

While the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would probably say that even if no-one had showed up, Logan can support his view with evidence.

At the time of writing, nearly half-a-million people have either attended sports events or the popular "Lausanne en Jeux!" festival, including sport initiations, music and other activities, both for children and adults.

Venues have largely been full, while Logan insists the Organising Committee has kept to the $42 million (£32 million/€38 million) budget it proposed when Lausanne bid for the event in 2015. This had been key, Logan said, because "in Switzerland, if you go one Franc over, the entire story is for nothing".

Lausanne 2020 chief executive Ian Logan claimed the Games had been a
Lausanne 2020 chief executive Ian Logan claimed the Games had been a "massive success" ©IOC

As with any multi-sport event, there have been challenges, most of which have been beyond the control of the Organising Committee itself.

Before the Games, Lausanne 2020 had to switch the speed skating from the city to a frozen lake of St Moritz and Champéry stepped in to host curling after Morges withdrew because of economic concerns.

A lack of snow forced organisers to reduce the length of the Alpine skiing course, while a horrific fall suffered by a performer in a rehearsal somewhat overshadowed the Opening Ceremony.

According to Logan, one of the biggest obstacles for Lausanne 2020 in the lead-up to the Games was ensuring all parties involved worked together. These Games have been the most far-flung of any Olympic event in recent memory, with events taking place over the border in France, up in the Swiss mountains and in St Moritz, 426 kilometres from Lausanne.

"That has been my work the last four years, to go to all these places and make sure we are all together," Logan tells insidethegames.

"One of the very strong successes of our Games is that we managed to federate two countries, three cantons and eight venues. We have managed to motivate all of them to see the opportunity having the Games provides for them.

"We convinced the people of these regions of the added value for them."

The "Lausanne en Jeux" festival has proved a hit with locals ©IOC

Logan recalls a far-from ideal climate in Switzerland in the years following the decision to award Lausanne the third Winter Youth Olympic Games.

In June 2018, Sion’s bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics collapsed after 54 per cent of residents in a Canton-wide referendum voted against releasing funding needed to stage the event.

The vote had been widely expected amid rising public opposition to the project and marked the second time in five years that a Swiss region voted against bidding for the Olympics in a referendum.

Logan believes, however, that Lausanne 2020 could be a springboard towards Switzerland, and the Swiss people, repairing its strained relationship with the Olympic Movement, but insisted it was far too soon to talk of the country as a contender to host the main Games in the future.

"We are on the way but let’s not go too fast," he said. "With Sion 2026, we started talking about the problems, the cost, the security.

"It was a glass half-empty. Most of the people only see the cost, but the budget is also money coming in and there is a positive side.

"In this climate of pushing the Youth Games, having not accepted Sion 2026, it was not so easy to motivate the people and I think today everybody is impressed with what we did.

"In the long-term, why not [bid again]?

"But let’s first see the glass half-full and the benefits, and I think we have planted some seeds to show it can be beneficial."

These issues were compounded by the tragic and sudden death of influential IOC member Patrick Baumann age 51 at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, which sent shockwaves through sport.

What would Baumann have made of the show put on by Lausanne 2020? An emotional Logan takes a moment to reflect before answering. "We both had crazy ideas and we did something crazy, so I am very happy," he said. "We did something at the level he would have expected.

"This he would have given him a great opportunity to go on with his story of improving everything with his ideas.

"I think he would have been proud."

Events at Lausanne 2020 have been spread across Switzerland and over the border in France ©Getty Images
Events at Lausanne 2020 have been spread across Switzerland and over the border in France ©Getty Images

Logan cites the use of public transport, the medal plaza located in the beating heart of the city, the two-wave system - where athletes competing in the events held in the first half of the Games left and were replaced with those participating in competitions in the second half - as examples of what he feels have worked particularly well at Lausanne 2020.

The former fighter pilot also feels the spread of venues, and the decentralised model it creates, will be the blueprint for future editions of the Youth Olympics. It seems a sensible approach, given the need to not overspend and avoid building unnecessary venues.

"You might not always have the place to have the Games that is identical to this concept, but I think our idea to go where it exists is the way forward," Logan said.

Before our interview ends, Logan reminds me of a quote he gave in an interview with me nearly four years ago, where he said Lausanne 2020 would show the IOC the Youth Games are worth keeping.

At the time of our last sit down, which came during Lillehammer 2016, discussions over the scrapping of the Youth Olympics, or altering its concept to a more cultural festival-based event, were gathering pace.

Such talk has been cooled by the successful events in Lillehammer and Buenos Aires, and Logan claims Lausanne 2020 has continued that trend.

"We did not do anything to kill the Youth Games," he says amid laughter. "In general, the way we did it, the way we organised it, we walked the talk.

"We rocked the city and we did something amazing."