SINGAPORE (Reuters) - International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacque Rogge has hailed the inaugural Youth Olympic Games as a fun and innovative event which will become the test ground for future sporting adaptations.
The 68-year-old Belgian, who has suffered much criticism over the event which he has continually pushed for, said he was pleased the athletes had enjoyed the experience and hoped they would continue to if they became full Olympians.
“It has to be enjoyed. The Games cannot be... that bloody serious games,” Rogge told two specially invited reporters in Singapore Wednesday.
“It is serious, it is a pinnacle of the career of an athlete but it shouldn’t be like a funeral where no one dares to whisper, there must be fun and must be excitement.”
The 12-day Youth Games which has featured 3,500 athletes from more than 200 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) competing in 26 Olympic events concludes Thursday and has been praised for the new ideas such as 3-on-3 basketball and mixed gender events.
“I think there will be a lot of innovation coming from these games,” Rogge said, whilst being driven from the Olympic village to watch the final of the judo tournament.
“I think this is a very good testing ground for the federations if they want to try something new at a higher level they have to do it here.”
The three-times Olympian, who competed in yachting, said he had been asked by International Federations (IF) if they could expand their competitions for future Youth Games but that he was wary of enlarging the competition too soon.
”The IFs the NOCs are my family and in a family sometimes you argue a little bit but they mean it well.
“They are the good cops and I am the bad cop. (I say) ‘hey hold on you have to look at the broad picture’ (when asked if they can have more athletes compete). One has to do the dirty work.”
Rogge, who held a question and answer session with athletes at the village earlier in the day, praised the organizing committee for quickly moving to address the issue of low crowds for events in the first few days of competition.
“The only thing that could be improved is the attendance at the beginning but they corrected that very quickly, re-selling the tickets. The first three or four days was very weak but that is minor to the huge success of the organization.”
Rogge was very jovial, dressed in a white polo shirt, as he spoke about the pressures and criticisms he faced when he first suggested the idea of a Youth Olympics to IOC members.
“There were some who, and I won’t name them, did not believe in the idea.”
When asked by Reuters if he was ever concerned the Youth Games would never get off the ground, Rogge joked: ”No, because I am a stubborn guy, that is what my wife and my kids tell me.
“I knew it would be a success but not of this magnitude.”
Rogge and the IOC have been keen to stress the cultural and educational programs, on subjects such as the environment and the dangers of doping, which have been on offer to the athletes in Singapore were as important as the competition.
“Hopefully that will reduce the number of doping (in full Olympics). How much is difficult to say but definitely it is going to be useful.”
The president, who steps down from his role in 2013, said he was also pleased with the global interest shown in the event, with the YOG’s Facebook page receiving many hits, although he would not be tempted to sign up as a member.
“No I don’t do that (social networking), I read a lot. I respect the shift of the generation now to digital but my life does not require me to be active on Facebook or Youtube,” he said with a smile.
(Editing by Alison Wildey
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