The fireworks dazzled, Latin American music played, and the dancing went on into the night as young athletes filled the square of the Youth Olympic Village one last time – a place they had called home for the past two weeks.
After 12 days of intense sporting action, the curtain fell on the 3rd Summer Youth Olympic Games (YOG) as the Olympic Flame was put out and its flag lowered in the Argentine capital at yesterday’s closing ceremony.
Team Singapore's Jaslyn Hooi (far right) joins #Pandi and other athletes to honour the Buenos Aires 2018 YOG volunteers. Photo: Singapore National Olympic Council
While the opener was an enormous public street-style event which drew crowds of up to 215,000, the closing ceremony was an intimate, closed-door event. It was a moment that solely belonged to athletes themselves.
‘It was a fantastic YOG, and we’ve truly celebrated this great festival of sport. Thank you dear athletes for your performance, your fair play and your spirit. You were really the best,’ said President of the International Olympic Committee, Mr Thomas Bach, at the closing ceremony.
Russia topped the medal tally with 29 golds, 16 silvers and 12 bronze. Its two star swimmers, Andrei Minakov and Kliment Kolesnikov, were crucial to the Russian success, as they dominated the pool by bagging six golds apiece. China, which bagged 17 golds, and Japan with 15 golds were next in the medal count respectively.
While Russia swept the sport accolades, the Argentines won all the plaudits. The reception was an undoubted success – organisers distributed over 600,000 Youth Olympic passes in Buenos Aires, setting a record attendance at a YOG.
Queues of up to 1.5km long were reported at the Youth Olympic Park as spectators waited for more than two hours to enter the venue where sports like swimming and athletics were being held.
This Games had also truly lived up to its motto ‘Feel the Future’, setting a blueprint that could be replicated in future Games to come.
For instance, its parks concept – a main talking point during the Games – reflected Buenos Aires’s innovative approach of using both temporary infrastructure and modification of current spaces in urban settings to host sports events.
In particular, the Urban Park featured an open space concept where spectators could simply come in, sit on the grass and watch a sport. Instead of stadiums, temporary structures hosted sports events like sport climbing and BMX freestyle.
Mr Leandro Larossa, CEO of the Buenos Aires 2018 YOG organising committee, said: “We think that we showed with some examples, that we can do some things differently in order to organise a more affordable Games for cities around the world.”
As Buenos Aires bade farewell, the Olympic flag was handed to officials from Dakar, Senegal, the host of the Games in 2022. It was a historic moment as it will be the first time the Olympics will head to Africa.
Although Singapore did not bag any medals, it was nonetheless an invaluable experience for the 18 athletes – some of whom were competing at a major Games for the first time.
“It’s a whole different experience from the usual competitions that I go to. I’ve become more mature on the court and am even more confident after the YOG”, said shuttler Joel Koh, who had given up his studies this year to pursue badminton full-time.
They will learn from this experience to help them become better athletes, said first-time chef-de-mission Tao Li.
“They’re still young and this Games is a very good exposure for them to gain some big-game experience. Whether we get a medal or not is a bonus – it’s good enough that the athletes have learnt something here,” she said.
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