Singapore: the shape of things to come

Lord Coe returns to the country and the 2012 Games organiser believes the Youth Olympics could influence senior competitions in the future.

SINGAPORE // It is easy to understand Lord Sebastian Coe's love affair with Singapore. Five years ago last month, the 2012 Olympics organising committee chief and the then bid co-ordinator was on hand in the city state to see London named as host of the 2012 Games. Coe returned this weekend for the inaugural Youth Olympics, which started yesterday. After meeting British athletes and watching the opening ceremony on Saturday, Coe reflected on the significance of winning the 2012 bid.

"It changed our lives forever," Coe said. He also praised the Youth Olympics, saying the event will engage young people. The competition will feature 3,600 athletes aged 14 to 18 from 204 countries competing in 26 sports. Looking back on his early days as a runner, Coe said a Youth Olympics would have better prepared him for top-level competition. The former two-time Olympic middle-distance champion started running at the age of 12 but did not make his Olympic debut until 23.

"Had I had that halfway through my journey to my first Olympic Games, that would have been helpful," Coe said. "I would have understood much more about movement, about myself. I would have understood a little more about mental strains." The Youth Olympics features traditional events alongside a mix of cultural and educational programmes. Competitors can also get advice from a host of veteran athletes including Yelena Isinbayeva, the Russian pole vaulter.

Coe said the Youth Olympics could help shape the formats of future Games, including the possibility of introducing shorter and faster events. The competition features a triathlon that is half the distance of the traditional race and is introducing three-on-three basketball. "You have to move with the times," Coe said. "You have to understand young people are in a different space than they were five years ago.

"It's about action, the flow of the event. It's about bringing young people into a venue and exciting them. You can only do that by innovating." * Associated Press