The Youth Olympic Games was started as a response to conditions prevalent when childhood obesity was predominant and children were reluctant to play outdoors. Of course, they are relevant even now. In 1998, Austrian industrialist Johann Rosenzopf first floated the idea that was to eventually be introduced by the International Olympic Committee as the Youth Olympic Games during the 119th IOC session in 2007. The objective was not elitism as espoused by the Olympics.
“The main goal is to give the youngsters an education based on Olympic values: friendship, fair play, non-violence and a rejection of any form of doping,” IOC president Jacques Rogge had said. From a modest beginning, the event has grown.
The first Youth Olympics was hosted in Singapore in 2010. Two editions later, at Buenos Aires, a bunch of teenagers from India have suddenly started plucking medals with elan. A gold in weightlifting and two in shooting have already made this the best-ever for India. A little-known weightlifter from Mizoram, Jeremy Lalrinnunga, was suddenly elevated to stardom.
Shooter Manu Bhaker put the Asian Games disappointment behind her to clinch India’s first-ever shooting gold and pistol shooter Saurabh Chaudhary added to the tally. And India’s rise in badminton looks set to continue with Lakshya Sen bagging a medal.
This looks like a resurgence in Indian sport. If we start dominating the world stage from a young age, there is hope for the summer Olympics. But one should tread with caution. Junior athletes from sports powerhouses like the US, Australia and China are already making a mark on the senior circuit. They have a strict regimen to graduate to the senior circuit.
Though the Youth Olympics has grown over the years, top junior athletes from these countries usually give it a miss. But then, previous editions have also featured would-be superstars like swimmer Chad le Clos of South Africa. Let’s not count the chickens before the eggs have hatched.