Boasting a glorious past of over 2,600 years, during which it has served as the capital to six different ancient dynasties, the city of Nanjing is without doubt among China PR's most prestigious, historic sites. The old metropolis, now capital of Jiangsu Province, is set to embrace the world's young sporting talent as host of the Youth Olympic Games in August 2014.
The city, located in the lower reaches of China PR's longest river, Yangtze, was awarded the right to host the global showpiece's second edition in an International Olympic Committee (IOC) session in February 2010, prior to the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore later that year. Having staged China PR's National Cities' Sports Games in 1995 and then the prestigious National Sports Games in 2005, the National Youth Olympic Games Organisational Committee (NYOGOC) sees the Youth Olympic Games as a chance to further lift their organisational level to international standard.
"It is a great opportunity for our city," said Mr Ji Jianye, mayor of Nanjing and Vice-chairman of the NYOGOC, "it will help lift our image on the world scene and will provide our youngsters with a rare chance to communicate with their counterparts from across the globe. It will broaden our vision as we are aiming to make another giant step forward in our city's internationalisation.
"We will do our best to live up to our pledges to the IOC," he continued, "with careful preparation and fine organisation, we will try to make this Youth Olympic Games a successful one."
Since their appointment as hosts, the Nanjing NYOGOC has embarked on preparation for the event. Venues innovation and facilities improvement have been accompanied by other ‘upgrades’ such as organisational training sessions and volunteer recruitment. During a visit he paid to Nanjing this January, IOC President Jacques Rogge paid tribute to the hosts.
"Thanks to the tremendous efforts of the talented NYOGOC team," he said, "impressive progress has been made. I have absolutely no doubt that the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games will be a great success and inspire young people from cities, nations and around the world to become more active in sport.”
At a promotional level, a 1,000-day countdown campaign was launched on 20 November 2011. And this May, Yelena Isinbaeva, two-time Olympic pole-vault champions and former ambassador to the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, was again named the event's ambassador.
"We are honoured to have a world-class star like her as the ambassador to Nanjing 2014," said Mr Xu Chuande, a member of the LOC, "she is the first of a series of ambassadors and we are looking to have more dignitaries to join her to promote the Olympic event."
To complement the global youth showpiece, the second Asian Youth Games is being staged in Nanjing this August. Following the initial success in Singapore four years ago, the NYOGOC are hoping that the second continental event will attract greater attention and for the organisational team to gain experience ahead of Nanjing 2014.
"The Asian Youth Games is a dress rehearsal for us for the Youth Olympic Games in 2014," said Mr Yu Zaiqing, NYOGOC Executive Chairman and IOC Vice-president, "The Asian competitions will test if our facilities meet the international requirements. Furthermore, it can help sharpen our organisational team and it is a chance for us to also take stock of our volunteers team."
*Football tournaments as a prelude *
Next year's event will see about 3,600 youth athletes across the world compete in 26 sports over two weeks from 16-28 August. As it was proved in the previous edition in Singapore 2010, the girls’ and boys’ football tournaments will catch their fair share of attention.
Each tournament features six teams, each side representing a FIFA confederation. As the Asian Football Confederation and Chinese Football Association have agreed, the host country have qualified for the girls' competition representing the continent. Remaining true to the principle that the same country may not qualify for both tournaments, China PR are therefore ruled out of the boys’ campaign.
Each qualified team features 18 players of under 15 years of age, or born from 1 January to 31 December of 1999. As an integral part of the event, the football competitions will again serve as the prelude to the Youth Olympic Games, with the boy's tournament kicking off on 15 August and the girls' a day earlier.
The football tournaments will surely then act as fascinating and intriguing build-up to the opening ceremony on 16 August, when the eyes of the world will be on Nanjing for the beginning of the second Youth Olympic Games.