The Youth Olympics
The Olympic Games is a time-honoured international sporting event, and the Youth Olympic Games is the version convened for athletes from the ages of 14 to 18. It operates in exactly the same way as the major Olympic Games, and is also organised by the International Olympic Committee and held every 4 years, in staggered winter and summer events.
History and Background
A key difference between the Youth and the regular Olympic Games is that the Youth Olympics is a much more recent development. The first Youth Summer Games was held in Singapore in 2010, and the first winter version was in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012. The idea of the Youth events was first suggested by Johann Rosenzopf, an industrial manager from Austria, in 1998 as a response to worldwide concerns about the increase in childhood obesity and the decrease in younger people participating in sports, especially in developed nations. The creation of the Youth Games was approved by the International Olympic Committee in 2007, as a successor to the World Youth Games and joining the ranks of other Olympic Youth events such as the Australian Youth Olympic Festival. In keeping up with modern times, social media platforms are used by the Youth Olympic Games organisers before, during and after to inform interested parties and call them to action.
To instil good sporting and general lifestyle values in young people, it was decided to include mixed gender and mixed national teams in the Youth Games. Fencing, triathlon relays, table tennis, archery, swimming relays and many other events involve such mixed teams. The requirements for participating in the Youth Olympics are set by the International Olympic Committee and the different sports’ International Federations, but some spots are reserved for athletes from under-represented countries in each event even if their qualifying marks are sub-par. This principle of Universality Places ensures all nations get to send at least 4 participants to compete. Each nation is only allowed 1 girls’ and 1 boys’ group for team sports and is also allowed up to 70 individual sport competitors.
There are many sports involved in the Youth Games, and they are mostly the same as in the traditional Olympics with certain adaptations and limitations. Certain sports that youngsters are especially interested in may be included in future events if they are backed by international federations.
More than Sports
In addition to fostering an interest in sports among young people and rewarding their effort, the Youth Olympic Games were created with further goals in mind. The idea is also to nurture future participants in the main Olympics, and to foster as much cultural education and exchange as possible between nations. To this end, the Cultural and Education Programme was developed and is a required component of every Youth Games celebration.
The Cultural and Education Programme aims to involve Youth Olympics participants and interested youngsters from around the world as well. Classes and talks on everything from fitness to career planning and the environment take place in host cities, and there is great focus on evolving and debating Olympic values. The Young Ambassadors, Young Reporters and Athlete Role Model Programmes involve and develop young people in different ways as well.
An All-Encompassing Event
The ultimate goal of the Youth Olympics seems to be to help create well-rounded, culturally aware individuals who can share the pleasures and responsibilities of a successful society. Excellence in sport has proven to be a robust platform for this, involving all kinds of activities and people,