YOG: a matter of ceremony

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The first–ever Youth Olympic Games began on 14 August 2010 with a spectacular opening ceremony at Singapore's Marina Bay Floating Platform.

The elaborate show reflected the history and cultural diversity of Singapore as well as broader global issues. The show featured 4, 000 local students, an array of local musicians as well as classic and contemporary music over two hours, before culminating in the lighting of the Olympic Flame. It was an impressive and extravagant opening to the inaugural Games that was the brainchild of International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge. The Belgian sports bureaucrat first introduced the idea publicly in 2001 and within six years IOC members approved the creation of a youth version of the Olympic Games. The Youth Olympic Games will be held quadrenially and staggered for summer and winter events, consistent with the current Olympic format. The international multi–sport event involves athletes from across the globe, aged between 14 and 18. The inaugural event in Singapore welcomed 3, 531 athletes representing 205 National Olympic Committees. On 26 August 2010, a spectacular closing ceremony at Marina Bay marked the end of the Youth Olympic Games as 12 days of competition officially came to a close in Singapore. Rogge had earlier declared that the inaugural event for 14 to 18–year–olds had surpassed all expectations and the city–state brought the curtain down with a vibrant and colourful show. Proceedings opened with an elaborate dance routine set to contemporary music before Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and Rogge were introduced and the Singapore national anthem sung. The emphasis was clearly on entertaining the younger members of the audience and a local boyband was next on stage, with people dressed as Olympic torches forming a heart behind them before spelling out "blazing the trail" all set to a backdrop of pyrotechnics. Around 3, 600 young Olympians then ran on to surround the circular platform before a stunning firework display lit up the Singaporean night sky. A montage of the Games' most memorable and iconic moments followed and the efforts of the thousands of volunteers were also recognised. Ng Ser Miang, chairman of the organising committee, then delivered a speech praising the athletes and declaring the Youth Olympics as Rogge's legacy before going on to thank prime minister Lee and everyone involved in delivering the Games in just two–and–a–half years. Rogge echoed Ng's sentiments before declaring the Games closed. The Olympic flag was lowered during the singing of the Olympic anthem and was handed over to Nanjing mayor Ji Jianye with the Chinese city hosting the second edition in 2014. The Olympic flame was then extinguished and a successful inaugural Youth Olympic Games came to a close. Prior to the event, Singapore 2010 CEO Goh Kee Nguan defended the cost of staging the Youth Olympic Games and outlined his hope that the inaugural event would spur interest from future host cities. Whilst it was originally anticipated that the Games would cost no more than $30m to stage, this figure had already risen to $90m when Singapore won the right to stage the first Youth Olympics in February 2008. Singapore's Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports said in July 2010 that this figure had risen to $286m, but Goh maintained Singapore 2010 would provide value for money when compared to other events of its stature. "The cost of organising the Games has increased from the bid proposal as a result of finer definition of the Games and refinement of specific requirements, " the head of the organising committee said. "Control of cost is always a challenge, but in Singapore's usual prudent expenditure, much review and oversight of the budget is being carried out. Notwithstanding the increase in cost, the budget for Singapore 2010 is one of the lowest in any Games of the equivalent scope and size. "Speaking to press earlier in 2010, the IOC moved to play down fears about the future of the Youth Olympics after confirming that Lillehammer was the only city to have tabled a bid for the 2016 Youth Winter Games. In April 2010, the Norwegian town, which successfully hosted the Winter Olympics in 1994, confirmed its candidate status for the youth version of the Games in six years' time. Singapore's Summer Youth Games will be followed by the first Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, in 2012. The second edition of the Summer Youth Olympics will take place in the Chinese city of Nanjing, but eyebrows were raised when Lillehammer emerged as the only bidder for the 2016 instalment. Singapore 2010 saw the Netherlands express its interest in hosting a future edition of the Games, and Goh was hopeful that the city–state's event would provide a perfect platform to showcase the potential of the IOC's new venture.

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