Youth Olympics go out with a bang

A CRESCENDO of drums, an eclectic array of singers and an elaborate fireworks display brought an end to the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) yesterday.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge closed the event on the world's largest floating platform at Marina Bay in Singapore 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 medallists - Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, American swimmer Michael Phelps and Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva - with all the youth athletes situated on the stage.

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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 organised, 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 criticised for a lack of big names and poor attendances, but Rogge praised the organising 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 added that 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 programmes that were free for athletes to attend.

The programmes covered topics such as the environment, cultural understanding and doping and were widely praised by the athletes.

The 2014 Games in Nanjing will be the first Olympic event to feature rugby sevens and golf, which will not make their debut in the line-up at a full Olympics until two years after that, in Rio de Janeiro.