"Thank You for Your Cooperation" -- Nanjing Charms, Challenges

(ATR) Youth Olympic Games still search for identity and status, says ATR Editor Ed Hula in this OpEd…

(ATR) I only stayed in Nanjing for a few days, but it was enough to assure me that this ancient city would be an able host for the second edition of the Summer Youth Olympic Games.

Admittedly a city of seven million seems a formidable landscape across which to stage an event that is supposed to be a fraction of the scale of the Olympics. But Nanjing made it work with a well-organized sports program, transport that flowed -- and a cheery workforce.

"Thank you for your cooperation" and "Wait a moment, please" were two of the most common phrases we heard from this corps of young people in uniform. Their sweetness and competence will be a lasting impression that will pay off for years to come.

In sharp contrast to Beijing and nearby Shanghai, traffic congestion was simply not an issue for Nanjing during the YOG,

even with venues scattered around the metropolitan area. Controls on cars and worker holidays helped keep the traffic

low, along with work stoppages at big construction sites.

As much as the IOC wants to keep this event from the complications that come from complexity, that’s tough to do when organizing 28 different sports plus four demonstration events for the Games – more than 100 sessions at venues ofOlympic standard. That’s only one-third the load of the regular Olympics, but it’s still a big job that includes the need for an athletics stadium, aquatics center, a number of arenas and now a golf course.

Nanjing delivered, with not a calamity to report from the field of play across 11 days of competition. Events began and ended on time, athletes traveled to and fro without incident. And there were even good crowds at some of the sessions.

But who really will remember the defining moment of sport of Nanjing?

Outstanding performances, extraordinary finishes, the moment that provides a signature for the Games, are absent from the


As a result, the YOG are shunned by the mainstream media, including the wire services and many websites, which means

little attention from the world at large. That begs the question of whether the YOG actually deliver a jolt to youth interest in

the Olympics or are they merely a feel-good event?

True, the YOG are coming to age in a world in which traditional media -- and even internet content -- is outmoded by advances in social media. The IOC is exploiting this change and the YOG mayfeed from this kind of media attention instead.

Still, with an investment of $100 million or more by the government and IOC in Nanjing, the question the IOC faces moving ahead is whether all this effort brings results. And it’s still not certain what the IOC is counting on for results. Is it YOG athletes who become Olympians? More 14-year old eyeballs watching TV coverage of modern pentathlon or fencing in the 2016 Olympics? Growth in participation by youth in Olympic sports? Is the YOG an incubator for new sports such as 3X3 basketball, skateboarding or sport climbing?

The IOC is in the midst of Olympic Agenda 2020, a wide ranging examination of what changes are needed for the Olympics in the years ahead. The YOG are part of those deliberations, which may result in decisions by the IOC by the end of the year. Answering the questions we raise will shape the future of this event, still searching for an identity – still unmentioned, by the way, in the document that governs the IOC, the Olympic Charter.

Written by Ed Hula.

Homepage photo: Getty Images

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