Youth Olympic Games can stop kids leaving sport: Rogge

By Patrick Johnston

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) can provide a magnet to attract back youth who turn their back on sports when they reach adolescence, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge told Reuters on Tuesday.

The Belgian believes the YOG, his idea which was ratified at an IOC conference in 2007, needs to be "fun" to help retain a demographic who traditionally turn away from sports.

"I would think certainly the event in time will be a magnet for young people who want to participate in something like that," a relaxed Rogge told Reuters after holding a question and answer session with youth Olympic ambassadors.

"We see the attraction very much and the magnet effect of the traditional games ... I think too a certain extent for the Youth Olympic Games we will have the same affect."

The 67-year-old, who competed in the yachting event in three consecutive Olympic Games from 1968, believed the emphasis of enjoying the event was key for the YOG rather than following the full Olympics model.

"It must be fun, it cannot be too serious, there should not be a gravity that you have at the traditional games that's for later. We want it (the YOG) to be fun, to be attractive.

"They (the athletes) are between 15 and 18 and that is the age to celebrate not necessarily the age to achieve.

"For me the measurement of success lies in the happiness of the athlete if the athletes are happy then for me the experience is a success."

However, Rogge, an orthopaedic surgeon by profession, said the athletes would be expected to go through the serious matter of doping testing during the YOG with more than 1,000 of the expected 3,500 competitors being tested.

Rogge, president since 2001, also thought the YOG would need time to perfect its model and find its feet in an already crowded sporting calendar.

"You have to be reasonable, it took 116 years since 1894 to have the organizational perfection, the audience and the crowd for the traditional Olympic Games, we will not need 116 years, maybe one or two editions."

Rogge said the model of using existing venues for the Youth Olympics helped Singapore organizers survive the global economic downturn with only slight budget effects and could also prove more attractive to other cities wanting to host the event.

"The economic crisis has led to certain adaptations to the budget but never has this slow(ed) down the preparations."

Rogge added he was not concerned the event would be affected by its scheduling, coming only a month after the soccer World Cup finals in South Africa.

"The World Cup will not have any negative effect on these Games. The World Cup you cannot compare with the Youth Olympic Games, but the Youth Olympic Games will not suffer because of the World Cup."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)