The YOG: aspiring Olympic champions

Thursday, 23 january 2020

The Winter Youth Olympic Games were staged in Lausanne from January 9 to 22: in many respects, a unique sporting event

The spirit of the Olympic Games

The idea of creating a youth version of the Olympic Games came from the Austrian Johann Rosenzopf. This project was subsequently brought to a successful conclusion by the former IOC President Jacques Rogge, with the IOC Executive Board voting unanimously on April 25, 2007 to officially launch this competition. Like the Olympic Games, the Youth Olympic Games (“YOG”) are held every four years in staggered summer and winter competitions. The first Winter YOG were held in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012 and subsequently in Lillehammer, Norway in 2016. For their 3rd edition, the Winter Youth Olympics were held in Lausanne from January 9 to 22, 2020, bringing together some 1,900 young sportsmen and women aged 15 to 18, with scrupulously respected parity between the sexes, representing more than 80 countries worldwide. These championships really provide the young athletes with an opportunity to rehearse for the fully-fledged Olympic Games. Indeed, all the participants applauded the spirit in which the competition was held: an atmosphere less serious than that of the Olympic Games. The athletes attending the YOG are more spontaneous and enthusiastic, and compete under less pressure than their elders.

New ideas

For the IOC, this is a perfect opportunity to test competition formulas and new ideas…and even new disciplines. In Switzerland, for example, we can enjoy ski-mountaineering competitions that are not on the Olympic program but which could be included one day. That’s how Breakdancing entered the Olympic Games after being tested successfully at the YOG. The popularity of the sport in this young-people’s competition at the YOG in Argentina in 2018 played a major role in the IOC’s decision to include the discipline in the Olympic Games program. Similarly, there are three-on-three ice hockey matches in the same way as three-on-three basketball matches at this 2020 edition of the YOG. Another innovation is that these teams are made up of hockey players from different countries. This is also the case in mixed figure skating events with teams comprised of athletes from different countries. This organization creates a special atmosphere, one that brings back Coubertin’s original spirit of fraternity between athletes from all over the world.