Going for Gold
The Nanjing Youth Olympic Games combine sporting events with cross-cultural education for young athletes
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Special> Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: August 25, 2014 NO. 35 AUGUST 28, 2014
Going for Gold
The Nanjing Youth Olympic Games combine sporting events with cross-cultural education for young athletes
By Ji Jing

SPECTACULAR SHOW: The opening ceremony of the Nanjing Youth Olympics on August 16 (HAN YUQING)

Dou Zecheng swings his arms in a delicate arc up and backward. Swinging his club back down, the small white ball atop his tee careens into the distance at the Zhongshan International Golf Club in Nanjing on August 15. The 17-year-old, who hails from central China's Henan Province, is the top-ranked Chinese amateur golfer, coming in at No. 39 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. He is at the club training for the second-ever Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing.

Dou is lucky to have the opportunity to compete in this year's Youth Olympics: Golf has been introduced to the Youth Olympics for the first time this year, along with rugby. In order to be able to compete at his highest level in the Games, Dou gave up participating in a major competition in July to focus on training.

"I feel honored to be the only golf player representing China. I feel the pressure, but I can handle it. My goal is to enjoy the fun of the competition while trying to win medals," he said.

Introducing new sports represents just one of the many innovations of the Nanjing Youth Olympics. New features were included throughout the preparation and competitions of this year's Games.

Compared with the 118-year history of the Olympic Games, the Youth Olympics is still in the preliminary stages of its development. Singapore made the idea a reality four years ago, while Nanjing has assumed the mission of making the event better-rounded. In order to do so, the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games Organizing Committee (NYOGOC) has taken a series of measures to develop and expand the event.

Innovative approaches

New to the Youth Olympics is the Sports Lab, located in the Yuzui Wetland Park, which opened to the public for free on August 17.

Established by the proposal of International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, the lab aims to showcase non-Olympic sports such as martial arts, rock climbing, roller skating and skateboarding. During the Games, top athletes from around the world will display their skills at the lab.

"All four sports at the lab have unique characteristics and a wide number of participants," said Wang Xiqiu, Executive Director of the Sports Lab. "For example, rock climbing—one of the basic skills required for mountain climbing—is an exciting challenge for young people and is gaining popularity around the world, while martial arts are typically Chinese and combine competition with physical exercise."

Co-ed and mixed-nationality contests in 15 of the Games' 28 sports represent another innovation this year. For example, in the 8x100-meter relay, 680 specialized track and field athletes of both genders and all nationalities will be randomly divided into 68 groups of 10 to take part in this competition.

Cheng Yuyang, chief referee of the track and field events at the Youth Olympics, said this giant relay involving all track and field athletes was created to allow athletes specializing in events such as the long jump, javelin throwing and shot-put to enjoy an afternoon of carefree, short-distance running.

"Most importantly, as athletes represent themselves rather than their countries in the all-nationalities competition, they are freed from the pressure of trying for gold and are able to enjoy the simple pleasure of sports," said Lin Feng, Director of the Sports Management Department of the NYOGOC.

"Additionally, mixed competition is better than a traditional one in nurturing athletes' teamwork skills, because participants don't know each other beforehand and need to cooperate closely in order to win," Lin said.

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