Nanjing takes fresh approach to Youth Olympics

Updated: 2014-08-05 15:06

By Sun Xiaochen (

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Nanjing expects to forge a vibrant international image by hosting the Youth Olympic Games with an innovative yet frugal approach, organizers said at the 10-day countdown celebration of the gala event.

Promising innovations in competition format and non-athletic activities, the 2nd Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing will spearhead the reform of the international Olympic Movement towards sustainability and youth development, while helping raise the city's international appeal.

"Hosting an major international event like the Youth Olympics, Nanjing has to upgrade its urban infrastructure and public services to meet international standards so that it can accommodate global visitors without barriers", Xu Ning, director of the Nanjing municipal government publicity department, told a press conference 10 days before the games begin on Aug 16.

"Our goal is to make Nanjing a city where foreigners find it easy to travel and they don't feel like strangers," Xu said.

More than 200 international volunteers including local expats, college students and foreign visitors from more than 20 countries and regions will staff competition venues, transport hubs and public service booths.

"They are more than ready to serve visitors from around the world while showing the hospitality of the city," said Wang Peng, an executive official with the volunteer department of the committee.

To accommodate thousands of athletes, officials, journalists and sports enthusiasts, the city has heavily invested to improve its public transportation system, bilingual orientation signs and tourism services at scenery spots, making city attractions accessible for international visitors.

The total spending on urban infrastructure upgrades was contained, to adhere to the International Olympic Committee's principles of frugal and sustainable games, said Qi Lu, vice-secretary general of the organizing committee.

Nanjing has planned some innovations to set it apart from other cities that have hosted major sporting events.

For the first time in Olympic history, the torch relay of the Nanjing Youth Olympics will go online with Internet users able to take part in a virtual relay by using apps on Android and Apple devices.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 42 million participants had registered on the app to carry the flame through 204 countries and regions in cyberspace. A real mini torch relay also started in Nanjing on Wednesday to highlight symbolic landmarks in the city.

"The online relay is an approach better adopted by youth and it's a new way to celebrate the games with much less spending," Qi said.

In the competitions, 15 of the 28 sports featured will introduce mixed gender and mixed nationality contests to promote the slogan of "Share the Games, Share our Dreams".

For example, in track and field, the 680 athletes will be randomly divided into 68 10-aside teams regardless of their gender, nationality or specialist event to compete in an 8×100-meter relay. Members of the winning team will be awarded medals but they will only count as individual certificates, not toward their nation's medal count.

"By introducing mixed races at the Youth Olympics, we aim to educate the young contenders on the idea of sharing happiness as well as responsibilities," said Chen Xiaohang, deputy director of the athletic department of the committee.

The Nanjing event will also, for the first time, include golf and rugby as official events, and accept wushu, a traditional Chinese martial art; sports climbing; roller skating; and skateboarding as showcase events at Sports Lab venues.