Olympic enchantment - a true Youth Games
INNSBRUCK, October 14, 2011 - There are still around 100 days to go. The first Winter Youth Olympic Games are setting a positive aspect, one from which the sports area of Tirol will benefit internationally. The Olympic torch will burn for the third time in Innsbruck. But what will these games for young people really be like?
A visit to the headquarters where the Youth Olympic Games are being organised. En route there the countdown clock on Maria-Theresien-Straße shows that there are still around 100 days to go - that's when the first Olympic Winter Youth Games will start. The atmosphere in the offices is good. Lots of young people are working here to make this première a success. One thing is evident on all their faces - Olympic spirit - that is, a great commitment to the task at hand. People are excited to see what it will be like when in January around 1050 athletes, a few hundred supervisors and a total of around 10,000 to 15,000 accredited people will come together for two weeks in Innsbruck and Seefeld, in Kühtai and on the Patscherkofel for this first time in the history of the Olympic movement, to celebrate the winter games for young athletes.
Georg Spazier, who is in charge of marketing for the YOG 2012, encapsulates it thus - 'There is no comparison'. 'The first Summer Youth Games in Singapore compared to the Games proper with regard to expenditure and size. On the other hand, in terms of size, style and focus, we have geared ourselves to organising Games which are truly for young people. In this respect we can by all means say that Innsbruck will experience the first true Youth Games.'
The utmost modesty
Benno Steger, who is responsible for all the catering, provides an example of how we might envision the Olympic Youth Games. 'There are no VIPs here. With us, the International Olympic Committee get the same lunch as a volunteer, or someone who is helping the big sponsors. Even with regard to our catering it is our objective to be modest, yet to deliver the highest quality', explains Mr. Steger.
As with all aspects of the Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck and Seefeld, the catering side of things is already in its final flourish and the details are being fine-tuned. The main questions have been clarified and everything is on track. 'For instance, right now it's all about how we set up the table in the Dogana in Congress Innsbruck, to make it comfortable for the athletes and efficient for the staff', says Mr. Steger. Mr Steger has been busy working on the organisation of this aspect alone for about a year. There are a lot of matters to consider. 'The menu plans for the athletes had to be agreed upon in a process with the IOC. The medical committee considered whether the food was balanced, and if the ingredients might lead to positive doping tests and much more', explains Benno Steger.
So what is Tirol set to experience in January? How will this Olympic enchantment be manifest? Georg Spazier from the YOG has a clear image of this. 'We will experience the internationality of the Games in one fell swoop. At least 67 nations are coming to Tirol, we are reckoning on 2000 officials in total in their national outfits, and also the uniformed helpers and the representation from the main sponsors. This will be a memorable image for the people of Tirol', explains Mr Spazier. Josef Margreiter, Managing Director of Tirol Werbung is convinced that the Olympic Youth Movement will inspire the people of Tirol: 'Many people are of the opinion that the Youth Games cannot compare to the regular Olympic Games. In many areas – like the number of athletes for instance – this is true. However, the organisation and the international commitment of the Olympic Committee are practically identical to the main Games. The major sponsors of the Olympic Games on board; we have a total of between 10,000 to 15,000 accredited staff and representatives from around 70 nations coming to Tirol. The Youth Games have a radiance which people still occasionally underestimate.'
The people of Tirol are a nation who enthusiastically accept winter sport in all its guises. Which is why during the many competitions many people expect that the number of spectators will be substantial, particularly since in many of the sports they will be seeing the absolute world class of young athletes here in Tirol. 'If you take competitions such as Freestyle and figure skating, we will be seeing the best in the world in Tirol', explains Georg Spazier. 'And of course Austria can count on solid chances of winning medals in lots of events.' The competition sites are ready, the sports areas are organised and the spectator will find it easy to get their bearings.' All the Freestyle competitions will be taking place in Kühtai, Seefeld will be the Nordic centre. The remainder of the competitions will be held in Innsbruck and on the Patscherkofel', summarises Georg Spazier. Josef Margreiter has also entered the competitions which he absolutely wants to see live in his calendar. 'I personally believe that we will witness very exciting moments during these two weeks. The Tirol people ought to be able to get involved and experience the symbolic effect and the panache of the Olympic Games in a compact form', Mr. Margreiter is convinced of that. 'Sporting performances by young people are just as important as experiencing the Olympic spirit together. That is why I am delighted that local people and visitors will be able to see these young Olympic champions and World Champions of the future, and witness their enthusiasm and expertise, up close in Tirol.'
One special place during the Winter Youth Olympic Games will also be Maria-Theresien-Straße, where every evening between the 14th and the 22nd January the medal ceremonies are set to take place. Around an hour and a half before and after the medal ceremonies there will be a programme of events, in which regional artists will be heavily involved. All the main sponsors will also be on show here and the Olympic spirit will be perceptible every evening, when the best young athletes are awarded gold, silver and bronze.
Away from all the emotions, intensive work is currently being carried out to use the symbolic power of these first Winter Youth Olympic Games in a way which benefits tourism too. 'For Tirol Werbung the first Winter Youth Olympic Games will will be a unique opportunity to present 'Sportland Tirol' in its entirety', explains Josef Margreiter. 'We have succeeded in using the symbolic power of the Olympic rings for the Tirol brand. The markets have reacted very positively to the symbol that Tirol has used to promote sport and young people. In the four months to come we will put in place targeted marketing activities in order to comprehensively represent Tirol's expertise in the sports and holiday sectors. The third Olympic Games in Tirol are an ideal platform for this.' Tirol Werbung don't just see themselves in the role of a classic sponsor here, rather with their campaign 'Gold for Tirol', they are using this platform intensively to demonstrate the country's expertise in winter sport on an international basis. Whether it is banners in the Tivoli stadium, posters at Tirol's border areas or international appearances in the past few years at very different major events, Tirol has shown itself to be a great host and is making the most of the opportunity of being the first region in the world to host the Olympic Games for the third time. One of the most exciting projects is the 'Wall of Fame' in Congress Innsbruck. This interactive art project stands, so to speak, for the community spirit of the Olympic Games. Anyone can immortalise themselves on this 'wall' and can therefore be a part of these Olympic Youth Games
The Olympic torch
That the Youth Games in Innsbruck can definitely compete with the main Olympic Games is shown by the Olympic torch run, which starts on 27th December in Innsbruck and will bring the Olympic torch to all the federal states and main towns in Austria, before then on the 13th January 2012 being sparked on the Bergisel for the third time. The Olympic torch run gets underway in Tirol during the last five days before the opening. Former sporting greats will characterise the torch run, as will international VIPS. Samsung and Coke are the presenting partners of the torch run – just as they will be in the Olympic summer Games in 2012 in London. Samsung for instance is looking for torch runners not just in Austria, but also in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Finland. So you can see the radiance these games have for Tirol. There is also a tradition here - whoever the last torch runners en route to Innsbruck are, and whoever will be sparking the Olympic torch in Innsbruck, is kept under wraps, right to the very end.