SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A crescendo of drums, an eclectic array of singers and an elaborate fireworks display brought an end to the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) on Thursday.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge closed the event on the world’s largest floating platform at Marina Bay and handed over the Olympic flag to the mayor of Chinese city Nanjing, the hosts of the 2014 youth Games.
The ceremony featured messages from three YOG ambassadors and Olympic gold medalists — Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, American swimmer Michael Phelps and Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva — with all the youth athletes situated on the stage.
Rogge was given rapturous applause by the 27,000 capacity crowd after telling Singapore they had done a “superb job” in hosting the Games, an event he had been pushing for throughout his presidency.
Earlier, in his closing news conference, Rogge said: “The Youth Olympic Games have exceeded vastly my highest expectations.”
“I always knew it would be well organized, but I did not expect this level of perfection.
“I now have 22 Olympic Games under my belt but (Singapore) ranks at the very top.”
The 12-day event involved 3,500 athletes aged from 14 to 18 from more than 200 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) competing in 26 Olympic sports.
The event was heavily criticized for a lack of big names and poor attendances but Rogge praised the organizing committee for re-selling tickets midway through the Games which significantly boosted crowds.
“Some countries told me they have underestimated the scope of this competition,” Rogge said, when asked if he was concerned about NOCs failing to send their best teenage athletes to the event.
“They said they regretted it and would send their best teams next time.”
Rogge said 17 cities were interested in hosting the 2018 Youth Games.
Rogge and the IOC have said throughout the Games that the success of the event would be determined by the cultural and educational programs that were free for athletes to attend.
The programs covered topics such as the environment, cultural understanding and doping and were widely praised by the athletes.
The Games showcased 3-on-3 basketball, mixed-gender and team competitions and the introduction of finals for lower placings in events for athletes knocked out in early rounds.
The 2014 Games in Nanjing will be the first Olympic event to feature rugby sevens and golf, which will not make their debut at a full Olympics until two years later in Rio de Janeiro.
Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com