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The third edition of the Summer Youth Olympic Games (YOG) opens on Saturday, 6 October, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Over 4,000 Game-Changing athletes, influencers and young leaders will be in the spotlight for an explosive 12 days of elite competition and innovation. The worlds best young athletes between the ages of 15 to 18 will be in the Argentinian capital for an event that will feature new sports (breaking, sport climbing, roller sports and karate), and many new disciplines and events such as BMX freestyle, kiteboarding, beach handball, futsal and acrobatic gymnastics. All in all, it will look to reflect the passions of the Game Changers which is being described by the organisers as "a new generation of athletes and fans." The Youth Olympics will now also set a precedent for gender equality with, for the first time in Olympic history, an equal number of male and female athletes among the 4,000 participants competing in 32 sports in total. This competition will also mark the introduction of the aforementioned sporst before they are formally included in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Clearly, the role of a frontrunner has been given to this edition of the Games. It also further highlights that this multi-sport event is at the forefront of sporting innovations, testing new concepts and creating a lasting legacy for the future. This is not the first time, however, that this has happened. The 2010 Singapore edition of the Youth Olympics saw the addition of 3x3 Basketball- a discipline that will be featuring the 2020 Olympics as well. In Argentina, 3x3 will join sport climbing, BMX freestyle and skateboarding (as an exhibition event) at an Urban Park cluster format that will be replicated two years from now in Japan. This is not restricted to just new events but also to formats. In a second example, Mixed gender events have also been included since the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and have earned a place in the Tokyo 2020 sports programme through the triathlon relay, mixed team judo, mixed team shooting, mixed team archery and mixed team fencing. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said during the first press conference of the event, "The stage is set for Youth Olympic Games of a new era. We will see here many firsts, not only for the YOG but for the entire Olympic Movement." "We said in Olympic Agenda 2020 that the sport of the future has to go where the people are. So we will also see many activities to try and have the young generation not only watch but participate and engage in sports," he added. "It is a very modern programme, which demonstrates that we wanted to take these Youth Olympic Games as a laboratory for testing new sports, new events and to see how they fit into such an event."
Buenos Aires is ready.Image: Buenos Aires 2018 This edition will see the organisers take the initiative to broadcast the proceedings in the Argentine capital through a digital platform. The Olympic Chanel across all its handles hopes to see a worldwide participation of sports enthusiasts and well-wishers. This is the first time that this initiative has been included as a priority task for the organisers. On-video content will also be available on the Olympic Channel on demand. The excitement has hit people at the highest ends of the sports administrative spectrum as well. "We cannot wait for the fascinating Opening Ceremony in the centre of this great city, which means a lot to me because I came here for the first time as a young athlete in 1973. To see the Youth Olympic Games in this city is an emotional experience for me," Bach concluded.
An inclusive and ground-breaking eventCompetitions in Buenos Aires have been strategically spread across four parks to ensure that at least one venue is accessible no matter which part of the city one lives in. Furthermore, free access to all sporting events in addition to a wide variety of additional activities in a festival atmosphere will be offered at these four major clusters, maximising the impact in introducing people to sports. This is a massive chance for the inhabitants of the city of Buenos Aires as well to be a part of the Olympic movement. According to official figures, over 600,000 people have registered to receive a Youth Olympic Pass, the electronic bracelet that grants access to the events. What this number does not show is that around 80% of the local population will also be concentrating on the developments in the tourney over the next couple of weeks. For the first time, the Buenos Aires edition sees an Olympic event being made free to the public. In another first of sorts, the Opening Ceremony will be held as a street party-style celebration in the city centre with an aim to bring together a large crowd of porteños to celebrate in the Argentinian capital when it takes place on Saturday at the iconic Obelisk monument in the city. Perhaps a very important off-the-field development this year is the inclusion of people beyond athletes, an encouragement for such people to be a part of the global Olympic movement. Non-athlete participants are integral to the YOG, including Young Change-Makers (YCMs), whose mission it is to support the YOG athletes and inspire their own communities through their experiences to ensure they get the most out of their YOG experience in South America. A total of eighty-one young people will serve as YCMs at Buenos Aires 2018.
The Game ChangersAthletes participating in the Youth Olympic Games must now shoulder a bigger responsibility than just winning medals for their country. And that's where the Game Changers movement comes in. On paper, it is meant to be a new initiative by the Youth Olympic Games that aims to celebrate the power and achievements of this age group through sport and beyond. Athletes are encouraged to share their experiences with their fans via social media and are given the digital tools and opportunities to produce their own content. Furthermore, the organising committee has put youth engagement and innovation at the heart of the Games. Opportunities to try new sports and activities for free at locations across the city will be available to the public; and 200,000 school children will experience the YOG, all as part of the mission to bring sports to the people.
Urban legaciesYouth Olympic Games Athletes Village. (Image: Wikipedia) Lastly, one must keep in mind the urban development that this tournament has brought with it. The Youth Olympic Games have acted as catalysts for urban development in the southern area of the city. In 2012, the Government of the City of Buenos Aires developed an Urban Development Master Plan for the purpose of improving the quality of life of its citizens and promoting uniform development for all citizens to be completed by 2030. However, the Youth Olympic Games have accelerated the process, District 8 of the city is reportedly undergoing a historic urbanisation process with featured that include the Youth Olympic Village Post-tournament plans for the same are in place. The Olympic Village will be offered as affordable housing for local people after the event. Another urban addition, the Youth Olympic Park, will become a new world-class high-performance sports centre. It is probably safe to conclude that the importance of the Youth Olympic Games is far more than what meets the eye and the organisers clearly know that. With an Indian contingent over nearly 50 athletes at the fray, competing in the age group competition, making a mark in the Olympic movement at so young an age, this should be a matter of immense pride. This demands our support and attention.'
India's starsThere can be no doubt about the fact that the Youth Olympics are important to the general development of sports world wide and specific to countries and India, in the 2018 edition, is being represented by its strongest team possible. Medal possibilities are vast particularly in the Shooting contingent. Mehuli Ghosh, a Mallcom athlete will be first among the female shooters to take to the range followed by Manu Bhaker. Mehuli's last brilliant showing at a multi sport tournament came in the Commonwealth Games which saw her miss out on the Gold by a whisker after a dip in scores with the final shot. India have never won Gold at the Youth Olympics. Mehuli, along with Manu Bhaker and the male shooters Saurabh Chaudhary and Shahu Mane will be looking to change it. Additionally, Badminton (Lakshya Sen, Vaishnavi Reddy), Wrestling (Simran), Table Tennis (Manav Thakkar and Archana Girish Kamath) and Weightlifting (Jeremy Lalrinnunga) provide valuable medal opportunities. We wish our contingent all the best. Hopefully, the Olympic experience will enrich and motivate them to achieve bigger milestones in future.