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Sunday, 15 August 2010

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Rogge feels like expectant father

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 nationalities.

"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).

 

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