Too much too young? YOG tests the DNA of sport

From Philip Barker in Singapore
The last time a British team went to Singapore on Olympic business was July 2005. The accent on youth was a key reason for the success of the 2012 bid.

Star attraction: world champion Tom Daley

There’s a similar emphasis at the first Youth Olympic Games set to open here with a spectacular ceremony on the Waterfront on Saturday.

Highboard diver Tom Daley, pictured right, is the best-known name in Britain’s team of 39. After his 2009 world championship victory in Rome, he is the one everyone here will want to beat.

“The Youth Olympic Games is another important step for me on the road to London 2012,” Daley said.

“I am looking forward to gaining further experience of a multi-sport environment and the unique atmosphere of living alongside athletes from different sports and countries in an Olympic Village.”

What he won’t experience is quite the same media frenzy that accompanied his appearance in Beijing as the youngest British Olympic competitor for 48 years, though he could face a grilling from the BBC’s Newsround and Blue Peter crews.

Organisers claim more than 1,000 media personnel will cover YOG, but with the Premier League swinging into action, the Youth Olympic Games will struggle for column inches and air time. The British press contingent for Singapore numbers fewer than a dozen reporters, some of those paid for by sponsors associated with the teams. The BBC expects to show rolling highlights on the red button digital service, updated daily at 0800 and 1500, and on iPlayer.

The media ranks will be swelled by 29 youngsters from across the world, aged between 18 and 24, chosen after what’s described by the IOC as a “rigorous selection process”.

They’ll be armed with brand new laptops courtesy of YOG sponsors, and they’ll be encouraged to blog about the Games.

Victoria Ohuruogu, sister of Olympic 400 metres champion Christine, should feature in the coverage. Like her sister, the European under-20 indoor champion goes in the 400m.

“I am sure I will gain a great deal on and off the track,” she said.

If you’ve spotted BMX racing and beach volleyball at the Olympics and some of the snowboarding and ski cross events at the Winter Games, you’d realise that for some time senior officials in Lausanne have been looking over its shoulder at the X Games as they try to grab the hearts and minds of the youth of the world.

Thus we have YOG, aimed at 15- to 18-year-olds. There’ll be 26 sports, the same as in London, although some of the disciplines will be different.

The IOC says the Youth Olympic Games will provide a balance between sport education and culture, with an educational programme laid on for participants which includes 50 activities based on the themes of Olympism, skills development, well-being and healthy lifestyle, social responsibility and expression.

They’ve promoted these Games with a string of fast-moving videos asking, “Do you have the YOG DNA?”

One thing that certainly isn’t part of the DNA is a medal table, but how long before the media and the teams themselves start talking in terms of medal targets? And how long too, before doping, or suggestions of child abuse in the rigorous training of competitors, infects these Games?

The organisers have released the theme song, Everyone, although not everyone connected with the Games will be able to make it to Singapore. “Youth Olympic Ambassadors” Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps are both absentees, although thanks pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, is expected to show up.