Debate Continues Over Future of Youth Olympics

by Emma Edmund 12

September 09th, 2021 News

The future of the Youth Olympics is being debated on Twitter after its champion, Jacques Rogge, died at the end of August.

Rogge, who served as president of the International Olympic Committee for 12 years, was a champion of youth sports during his tenure at the top of an organization often wracked in controversy and scandal. His advocacy for youth sports dates back to well before his time as IOC president. Back in 1991, he organized Olympic Youth Days in his native Belgium, where almost 3,000 kids from over 30 countries participated in 10 sports. His idea for a Youth Olympics was approved unanimously by the IOC members in July 2007. 

In 2010, while Rogge led the IOC, Singapore hosted the first Summer Youth Olympics, and Austria hosted the 2012 inaugural winter games. Competitors between 15 and 18 years old can compete at the summer and winter Youth Olympics. In addition to the 28 summer and seven winter sports offered in the Youth Olympics, the games also allow for new sport formats, including mixed gender events.

“The objective of the YOG is to encourage young people around the world to practise sport; raise awareness of and encourage them to adopt the values of Olympism; and disseminate the message of the Olympic Movement around them,” according to the IOC.

However, after Rogge’s death at the age of 79, some Twitter users took to the app to question the continued existence of the games. 

Michael Payne, who used to head the marketing committee of the IOC, wrote that the YOG was a “failed strategy.” He added that while the principles behind the program — growing youth participation in sports — was correct, the execution was wrong.

Others, though, didn’t entirely agree. Journalist Tracey Holmes, for example, tweeted that she has been to the Games, where she’s seen 3×3 basketball, breakdancing, and more — all of which have been incorporated into the Olympics. She added that the YOG helps bring a younger generation into sports.

As for the YOG itself, the games have had participation from almost all 206 NOCs, and athletes participate in education and local youth activities in addition to their competitions. Athletes stay in a Youth Olympic Village to promote cross-cultural interaction. Many top young athletes, however, can just participate in the top-level Olympics.

Regardless of the debate, the IOC hasn’t formally indicated it’s planning to cut the Youth Olympics.

While the Youth Olympics has been a subordinated meet for the United States, the world’s swimming powerhouse, Rhyan White became the first Youth Olympics alum to make the US Olympic Team in swimming this year. Other countries have put more focus on the event, sending top youth swimmers.

The swimming portion of the Youth Olympics, focused on smaller rosters like the event in general is, has a unique format. Each country can send only 4 male and 4 female swimmers, just enough to fill out relays.

Among the biggest names who raced at the 2018 Youth Olympics were World Record breaker Kristof Milak of Hungary, Kliment Kolesnikov and Andrei Minakov of Russia, Thomas Ceccon of Italy, Anastasia Gorbenko of Israel, Barbora Seemanova of Czech Republic, and Kaylee McKeown of Australia. Milak, Kolesnikov, and McKeown all won gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The next Youth Olympic Games are scheduled for 2026 in Dakar, Senegal. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic delayed them from their originally-scheduled 2022 dates.

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Faith Young Crooks
1 year ago

I do believe it should continue. For some athletes, they may never make it to the bigger Olympics. They would have trained most of their lives and would not have been able to attend an event like the Youth Olympic Games.

It gives those athletes the feeling that their training was not in vain but they have something to also aspire for.

I went with my son in 2018 and it was an amazing experience for him and so many other athletes around the world. His whole mindset about the sport changed in a positive way.

Remember, only the few top athletes will get to attend the bigger Olympic Games and even World Championships.

The true… Read more »

1 year ago

It‘s as simple as that: There are great swimmers and not so great swimmers. For great swimmers, it doesn‘t matter if you have YOG or not, all they need is enough goals to get to their best results.
I don‘t think we need the YOG. There are too many examples of young athletes performing great at the real OG.

1 year ago

It’s kinda hard to say. When I see it’s a 4 year cycle, that doesn’t give every age group athlete the same oportunity to shine. There are more frequent and better intenational competitions that give an equal oportunity. Olympic games should be and remain only for the best of the best, but also it would be pretty darn nice to give the youth a taste of that experiance.

Mixed Words
1 year ago

“The execution is wrong”…as it is for the regular Olympics…and the common factor of both is they are under the guidance of a corrupt and delusional organization…namely the IOC.

1 year ago

feel like YOG never got the hype that was intended. I know rhyan white shined there, but other than that, no real notable names.

Reply to  Pez
1 year ago

Might pay to go have another peek at the results from the 2018 Youth Olympics. Quite a few medalists more notable than Rhyan White.

Reply to  Pez
1 year ago

The most recent games at Buenos Aires served as a playground for Minakov and Kolesnikov and they both got a ridiculous amount of medals. Also had a showdown between Milak and Minakov. I think it also was Pignatiello’s and Ceccon’s breakout meet. Plenty of swimmers with more notable names than Rhyan White. I mean Mckeown literally swam and beat White in the backstrokes back then! There is no way you can argue that White was the biggest name swimming in the Youth Olympic Games

Reply to  KimJongSpoon
1 year ago

Biggest name for Americans, most likely

Reply to  thezwimmer
1 year ago

For some Americans, that’s all they know. And are proud of it.

Reply to  KimJongSpoon
1 year ago

It was where Yang Junxuan first appeared also.
Her split opening the relay would have given her Bronze at the individual 200 free.
Chelsea Hodges also appeared there.

Same for Ceccon, Burdisso.. lot of names

Reply to  Pez
1 year ago

Chad Le Clos, Emma McKeon, Boglarka Kapas, Madison Wilson, Evgeny Rylov, Anton Chupkov, Misha Romanchuk, Luke Greenbank, Tamas Kenderesi, Siobhan Haughey, Kyle Chalmers, Duncan Scott, Simona Quadarella, Ruta Meilutyte, Zhang Yufei, Kristof Milak, Kaylee McKeown, Kliment Kolesnikov, Yang Junxuan, Andrei Minakov, Thomas Ceccon, Federico Burdisso.


jane dressel’s 25 doggy paddle
1 year ago

i think it’s best to cut it since there’s already young athletes at the olympics