The International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Coordination Commission for the 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck in 2012 concluded last Tuesday its fourth and final visit to the Austrian host city. The Coordination Commission visit took place after three successful days of Chefs de Mission meetings with all 65 nations that will compete in Innsbruck.
With 129 days to go until the Opening Ceremony, the Innsbruck Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (IYOGOC) remains on track as it enters the operational readiness phase in its planning.
Headed by Chairman Gian-Franco Kasper, the IOC Coordination Commission was particularly impressed with the progress of the Youth Olympic Village (YOV). The YOV will accommodate approximately 1,660 athletes and officials during Games time, and, as a legacy of the Youth Olympic Games, will be used as affordable housing once the Games have concluded. "The Innsbruck Organising Committee heads into the final few months of preparation with an extremely organised and creative team who are working tirelessly to ensure an unforgettable elite sporting event for the world’s best young winter athletes", said Kasper. "This unique host city has a rich Olympic history, and today we can feel the excitement building as it makes history again with the 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games".
The IOC has supported the move to have all snowboard and freestyle events at the Kühtai venue. Based at over 2,000 metres and with excellent snowmaking facilities that practically guarantee snow conditions, the venue, thanks to the new facilities, is expected to become one of the best winter freestyle sport and training centres in Europe. This adds to the legacy of the recently completed Biathlon shooting range at the Seefeld venue.
At Innsbruck 2012, several new disciplines will be seen for the first time at an Olympic event, such as snowboard slopestype, ski half pipe and ice hockey skills challenge. Also integrated into the sports programme for the first time is women’s ski jumping, the winner of which will be awarded the first Winter Youth Olympic Games medal.
The Coordination Commission was also pleased to note the full integration of the unique Culture and Education Programme (CEP) into the overall schedule for athletes, spectators and local schools. The Programme will enable athletes to learn new skills, experience different cultures and cover key topics such as the benefits of healthy lifestyles, the dangers of doping, and the values of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The CEP was successfully tested this week during a seminar involving the 33 Young Ambassadors chosen by National Olympic Committees. This group will then guide the athletes through the programme during Games time.
The volunteer programme, launched earlier this year, has attracted almost 2,500 applications from 40 countries — double the amount of volunteers actually required. In addition, partnerships with 12 international universities have also been secured.
Communication and promotion of the Youth Olympic Games will build in the final months leading up to the Games, with the main focus on ticketing and the 18-day Torch Relay that will visit 50 national locations. Several digital media initiatives are also under way, increasing traffic and fan numbers on IYOGOC’s website and social media platforms. Supporting the promotional campaign will be a group of ambassadors selected by the IOC that includes Alpine skiers Lindsey Vonn (USA) and Benjamin Raich (Austria), with more to be announced in the lead-up to the Games.
In one month’s time, Innsbruck 2012 will celebrate its 100-day countdown, and will take the opportunity to present a number of engaging initiatives and events to mark the milestone.
"Holding 63 medal events and a wide-ranging Culture and Education Programme in the space of just 10 days requires a tremendous amount of detailed planning, organisation, coordination, leadership and monitoring", said Innsbruck 2012 Chief Operating Officer Peter Bayer. "I am proud of our team. The vision of the Youth Olympic Games is within touching distance, and there is great enthusiasm among all the members of the Organising Committee. We have embraced and are living the Olympic Spirit, which is reflected in the excellent work we’ve done so far".
The first Winter Youth Olympic Games will take place between 13 and 22 January 2012. The Winter Youth Olympic Games will be a 10-day multi-sport, cultural and educational event. The Games will bring together 1,048 athletes between 14 and 18 years of age from approximately 80 National Olympic Committees. The programme of the 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games will be established on the basis of the seven sports included in the Vancouver 2010 programme (Biathlon, Bobsleigh, Curling, Ice Hockey, Luge, Skating and Skiing). The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) will highlight the different sports and provide an efficient platform to motivate young people to "get active" and adhere to the Olympic spirit.
Innsbruck (Tirol, Austria) was the host city to the Olympic Winter Games back in 1964 and 1976 (Innsbruck replaces Denver at short notice to host the Winter Games after the people of the state of Colorado voted to prohibit public funds from being used to support the Games).