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Innsbruck 2012 exceeds expectations
The inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) came to an end on Sunday in Innsbruck, Austria, with a memorable Closing Ceremony watched by an enthusiastic crowd at the Medals Plaza on the city's famous Maria-Theresien-Straße.
The Ceremony brought a close to 10 days of world-class sporting competition and cultural and educational activities specifically designed for the 1,000-plus athletes aged 15 to 18 who participated in the Games.
"By all measures, the first Winter Youth Olympic Games exceeded expectations and established a solid foundation for future Youth Games," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said during his closing remarks, later declaring: "They were superbly refreshing Games." Addressing the athletes directly, he added: "You are role models for your generation. You have started something special in Innsbruck. And no matter what happens in your sports career from this point, all of you are equipped to become future leaders."
The athletes helped to make Olympic history by participating in a number of events that appeared for the first time on an Olympic programme in Innsbruck ahead of their inclusion in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. These included women's ski jumping, ski halfpipe and snowboard slopestyle. The Games also featured innovative new formats such as the mixed country doubles competition in curling; the mixed sport event cross-country/biathlon; mixed gender luge and ice hockey skills challenge.
Seventy countries participated in the Winter Youth Olympic Games, including Morocco, which became the first African country to win a medal at a winter Olympic event when Adam Lamhamedi took gold in the men's super-G. More than 110,000 spectators supported the athletes over the course of the Games, as they competed at the world-class indoor and outdoor venues, with almost 35,000 fans packing out the Medals Plaza where the victory ceremonies and evening concerts took place.
"There were so many firsts at these Games, so many incredible moments for the athletes and everyone involved in staging this event," added President Rogge, who had special praise for the 1,400 volunteers at the Games. "Innsbruck was a terrific continuation of the excellent work done at the first Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, and it bodes very well for the future of the Youth Olympic Games."
Innsbruck 2012 also incorporated an exciting Culture and Education programme (CEP) designed to help educate the young athletes on how to live by the Olympic values both on and off the field of play through engaging workshops held at Congress Innsbruck. The CEP also included the Young Ambassador programme, which saw 33 exceptional young people on hand to guide the athletes through their YOG experience, and the Athlete Role Model programme, which involved over 30 Olympians passing on their advice to the athletes.
In addition, the IOC President was delighted to welcome YOG Ambassadors Yuna Kim and Lindsey Vonn to the Games. The Olympic champions supported the young athletes in their sporting events and visited the CEP at Congress Innsbruck where they held Q&A sessions with the YOG competitors.
Another hit at the Games was the innovative, interactive USB key known as the Yogger, which was given to every athlete and official. In addition to providing the athletes with essential information in a paperless format, the Yogger acted as a virtual business card, allowing users to share information such as names and email addresses simply by touching their keys together. Swiping the keys against the various CEP booths allowed the athletes to collect electronic material about the activities. In total, an impressive 138,000 Yogger interactions have been made.
Media interest in the Youth Olympic Games was strong, with highlights broadcast in more than 60 territories, and over 15,000 articles worldwide. The IOC also brought the action to 8.5 million fans on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Sina Weibo, as well as via its website, www.olympic.org.
The next edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games will be held in Lillehammer, Norway, while the second Summer Youth Olympic Games will take place in Nanjing, China in 2014.