SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Small is beautiful, or so Singapore hopes to convince members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when they vote on the site of the inaugural Youth Games this month.
“The ideals and values of the Youth Olympics are tailor-made for small cities — not just Singapore but small cities around the world,” Teo Ser Luck, the leader of the city-state’s bid, told Reuters in an interview.
Singapore, quietly confident that it can see off the bid of its only rival Moscow thanks to its size, its reputation for efficiency and its good transport system, has already started work on venues that could be used for the 2010 Games.
“We’re efficient, we’re effective, we’re multicultural. And safety is another big plus point,” said Teo. “We’ll sell ourselves as one big Games village.”
Construction in Singapore started last week on 5,000-bed university residences, which would be used for a Youth Olympic Village.
The $423-million project will be completed by February 2010, and would be within 30 minutes of all the sports venues.
“I am confident that we can deliver a high-quality, memorable event that will celebrate the spirit of the Games, strengthen the Olympic movement (and) leave a lasting impact on young people around the world,” Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Loong said in a statement.
“We are a young nation and a small city-state but we have built a trusted brand name internationally as a reliable partner, able to get things done,” he said.
Singapore, with a population of just 4.6 million, is positioning itself as a city that might not have a chance to host a full Olympics and so would benefit from the smaller youth event, which will have 3,500 athletes aged 14-18 competing in 26 sports.
“It would leave an Olympic legacy — just deciding to bid for it has created a buzz,” Teo said. “This is the closest we can get.”
The city-state is redeveloping its national stadium into a sports complex with a 50,000-seater arena, though this will not be ready until 2011.
Instead, it plans to use its Bishan stadium, which hosts soccer games and athletics competitions and is being upgraded to hold 10,000 seats.
Teo said the IOC did not want big stadiums, to create a more comfortable atmosphere for the young athletes, so Singapore was planning to use existing facilities spread throughout the island’s heartland of apartments blocks and tropical vegetation.
Opening and closing ceremonies would be held on a floating platform overlooking Singapore’s harbor.
Moscow’s mayor Yuri Luzhkov told Reuters in an interview last week that his city already had all the facilities to hold the event.
The Russian capital lost a bid to stage the 2012 Olympic Games to London, but has experience in hosting the boycott-affected Games in 1980.
Singapore has seen little in the way of Olympic success since 1960, when Tan Howe Liang won a silver for weightlifting, but has twice hosted the biennial Southeast Asian Games, with more athletes than the Youth Olympics, and will host them again in 2013.
Singapore is the venue for Formula One’s first night race in September, on public roads, and is hoping for spin-offs such as developing a motor sports industry.
The Youth Olympics would also fit in with a government strategy of boosting tourism.
IOC members will vote by post to decide the venue with the result provisionally scheduled to be announced on February 21.
Athletes in Singapore share the optimism about success. “I’d feel very honored. It’s impossible for us to hold the Olympic Games, and we’d be well connected with the rest of the world,” said Amanda Lim, a 15-year-old swimmer, who hopes to compete for Singapore in 2010.
Editing by Clare Fallon