Jacques Rogge remains utterly inspired by the best of the world’s young sporting talent. Seventy-five years young, the Belgian is looking forward with relish to Buenos Aires 2018.
“You are absolutely right, I never dreamed back in 2007 that breakdancing would be on the programme for a Youth Olympic Games (YOG),” laughed Jacques Rogge, the former President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the person who did more than any other to bring the YOG to life.
“The YOG has always been about innovation and it is continuing with the Games in BA,” Rogge said with pride.
The 75-year-old, who ran things at the IOC from 2001-2013, was reflecting on the schedule for Buenos Aires 2018, which will include four brand-new sports: karate, sport climbing, roller speed and the aforementioned dance sport (featuring men’s, women’s and mixed team breakdancing).
“The YOG has always been about innovation and it is continuing with the Games in BA,” Rogge said with pride. He has a point. From skateboarding to 3x3 basketball via mixed-gender swimming relays, a host of events have made spectacular splashes at the YOG before going on to star in the senior Olympic Games.
Rogge, who has been involved in Olympic sport since making his debut as a sailor for team Belgium in the Mexico 1968 Games, is particularly inspired by Buenos Aires’ innovative intention to maximise its residents’ engagement with sport and culture throughout the 12 months leading up to the YOG.
“It is exciting to see the participation of the young people of the city in the Games, this is really something interesting,” Rogge said. “They are involved in events throughout the year, being introduced to sports, playing sports.
“The young people of Buenos Aires will take part and learn all these new sports.”
This is part of the exhilarating Four Parks concept, which combines sport, culture, music and art as youngsters are encouraged to not only watch and support, but take part during the YOG. The parks are split into defining categories: Green, Urban, Tecnopolis and the Youth Olympic Park. From training with Olympic champions on the field of play to learning life skills, the opportunities will be widespread.
“This is the essence of the Youth Olympic Games,” Rogge said.
The Belgian came up with the concept of the YOG back in 1991, when President of the European Olympic Committee. He eventually presented it to his fellow IOC members in 2007 and immediately received almost unanimous support.
“The motivation was that if you look at the development of young athletes, there is the first stage that ends aged 17 or 18, with adolescence ending, and then they are in the adult world and there was no competition to bridge that gap,” Rogge explained.
“Then there is the education part of it, which was very important and really appealed to the athletes. And ultimately, you want to also make it a big party.”
For Rogge, whose life has been dominated by the Olympic Games having participated in three and attended a further 18 as an administrator, the YOG remain the absolute pinnacle. “I am now 75,” he said. “I know I will not see ten more Olympic Games but to benefit from two or three more of the YOG would be fun.”