World’s First Youth Olympic Games Officially Begins
More than 27, 000 spectators from Singapore and millions around the world gathered to witness the opening ceremony of the first-ever Youth Olympic Games on Aug 14, 2010.
The celebrations, a parade of fireworks and pyrotechnics, marked a milestone in the Olympic movement. The YOG’s 3,600 athletes are aged 14 to 18, younger than their counterparts at the regular Games. They will compete in 26 Olympic sports.
The ceremony treated viewers to a taste of Singapore culture with dance and folk-song from the various ethnic groups –Chinese, Malay and Tamil–, but the night’s main theme was overcoming differences through sport, culture and education.
The stage was the world’s biggest floating platform on Marina Bay, close to the city centre. Divided into twelve chapters, each segment showcased elements of Singapore’s history or explored aspects of the YOG vision through dance and song.
For example, in a retelling of a Chinese fable, thousands of carp danced onstage, swimming upstream against the river’s treacherous currents to reach heaven’s gate. As the legend goes, the gods reward the carp’s determination by transforming them into a dragon. On the platform, the carp merged to become scales on the mystical creature.
Besides age, the YOG differs from the regular Olympics because athletes do not just compete in their respective sport over the next twelve days. They also engage in cultural and educational interaction to promote global understanding.
Ng Ser Miang, Chairman of the Singapore YOG Organising Committee, stressed that athletes should take the opportunity to engage each other in global and cultural discussion, as well as to forge friendships. He said that establishing “strong bonds” with people from other countries helps “build a peaceful world”.
In his address, International Olympic Committee president Jacque Rogge called the YOG “a new chapter in the history of the Olympic movement.” He also urged the young Olympians to be champions who inspire admiration for their sense of character, instead of merely trying to win medals.
The night’s spectacle culminated in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. A young Olympian atop an elaborately designed float docked at the platform to complete the last leg of the torch relay, passing the flame to Singapore’s most prominent young athletes.
Two-time Byte CII world sailing champion Darren Choy, 16, lit the base of the lighthouse structure, setting off a fireball that spiraled up the shaft. The pillar of fire will continue to burn for the next twelve days.
Singapore’s hosting of the YOG is not without criticism, however, even from within the island-state.
Netizens have lambasted the undertaking as a waste of the country’s resources, especially given scant international coverage for the opening ceremony.The original $90 million budget has trebled to around $290 million, according to the BBC.
Many are also unhappy that failure to give way to Olympic vehicles on specific road lanes would result in a fine of SGD$130. There’s even a Youtube video mocking the fine.
The International Olympic Committee initiated the YOG in 1997 to inspire youths to take up sports and live by the Olympic values.
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