SINGAPORE – Better athletes will be coming to the next Youth Olympics, IOC president Jacques Rogge said Thursday.
Rogge didn't name which countries declined to send their best teenage athletes to Singapore for this year's games, but he said they promised to do so at the next edition in Nanjing, China, in 2014.
"There are a number of countries that have not sent their absolute top athletes but a little lower level," Rogge said. "They all told me that they regret it and they underestimated the scope and vitality of this competition.
"From those countries where the top was not present, I got the assurance that next time it would be."
The Youth Olympics, which closed Thursday, were dominated by China, which won 30 gold medals and 51 overall. Russia was second with 19 gold medals and South Korea was third with 11.
The United States won only four gold medals, and U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun said earlier this week that scheduling conflicts had kept some top American athletes from competing in Singapore.
The Youth Olympics featured 3,600 athletes aged 14 to 18 from 204 national Olympic committees competing in 26 sports.
Rogge said he was also pushing for an agreement with FIFA to allow higher quality soccer teams to play at future Youth Games. Rogge said FIFA had insisted that weaker teams be given a chance at international exposure at the tournament, which featured champion Bolivia, runner-up Haiti, bronze medalist Singapore, Montenegro, Zimbabwe and Vanuatu.
"It's true that in football we didn't have the very strong teams," Rogge said. "That was a deliberate policy of FIFA. We have said to FIFA that we would prefer to have the stronger teams next time."
Critics have complained that the money spent by the government on the Youth Olympics could have been better used.
The IOC initially projected in 2007 the Youth Games would cost $30 million to stage. By the time Singapore won its bid in 2008, the budget was up to $76 million. The government said in July it expects a final bill of $287 million.
For Singapore, the Youth Games were part of a strategy to diversify its economy toward tourism and services and away from manufacturing. The opening of two casino resorts built by Las Vegas Sands and Malaysia's Genting this year, and the staging of the first annual night race for Formula One in 2008 have helped attract record tourist arrivals.
"These Youth Games have definitely exceeded vastly my highest expectations," Rogge said. "I did not expect this level of perfection in organization. Hats off to Singapore for what they have done."