Rogge feels like expectant father
by Martin Parry
OLYMPICS: SINGAPORE, Aug 14 (AFP) - International Olympic Committee
president Jacques Rogge said Saturday he felt like an expectant father
waiting for his baby to be born as the Belgian's Youth Olympic Games
dream comes true.
The inaugural event for 14-to-18 year olds, which officially opens in
Singapore later in the day, is a project Rogge has championed since
becoming IOC chief in 2001.
"I feel like a father in the delivery room waiting for it to happen,"
he said at a press conference.
"I'm optimistic, but still want to see the baby being born. "I
believe in the concept and this is shared by stakeholders and the
Olympic community," he added. The showpiece is designed as a stepping
stone for young athletes striving to compete at an Olympics proper.
But it is also about encouraging youths to take up sport and spend
less time glued to computer and television screens. Some 3,600 athletes
will compete in the 26 events that make up the Olympics, with a
simultaneous cultural and education programme running to teach them
about Olympic values and global issues. To keep it interesting, some of
the traditional sports have been adapted, with new formats like street
basketball and triathlon with mixed gender teams.
There will even be competitions with mixed teams from different
"All these are designed to appeal to a younger audience and inspire
the young athletes," said Rogge, who is optimistic the concept will be
embraced for years to come. "I'm absolutely thrilled by the organisation
and what Singapore has done in the past two-and-a-half years is
remarkable," he said.
"I'm also pleased with the universality of the Games with 205 Olympic
countries sending athletes. It's been an ambitious project and we will
watch how it goes closely. "There will probably be mistakes made but we
will learn from them and I'm optimistic this will be the start of great
things for the Youth Olympic Games."
While tickets sales for some events have been sluggish, Rogge said
key Olympic stakeholders had been impressed with what they have seen and
he was buoyed by the global interest.
"I'm very pleased with the worldwide interest. The IOC has signed 106
countries to air part or all of the events," he said. "Twenty-five
countries will air live all of the opening and closing ceremonies. It's
a very good presence."
For tiny Singapore, it is more invaluable exposure in its drive to
prove it can compete on the global stage, despite budgets reportedly
tripling to 387 million dollars (284 million US).