Seven years may have passed since the inaugural winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) were held in Innsbruck in 2012, but the Austrian city is still experiencing the benefits of hosting the YOG.
The construction of the Youth Olympic Village, for instance, has now provided more than 400 affordable homes to families on low incomes, while the establishment of a Nordic centre and a jumping hill in Seefeld and a new ski-cross track and freestyle course in Kühtai have benefited local athletes and paved the way for the region to host other major sporting events.
“We are still living and celebrating the YOG legacy,” explains Georg Spazier, the CEO of Innsbruck-Tirol Sports (ITS) – a not-for-profit company that was formed following the Winter YOG to help build on the legacy of the Games. “One of the largest legacy projects was definitely the Olympic Village, but our company also stands as a legacy itself.”
In the years since the YOG, ITS has helped further develop the Innsbruck 2012 legacy through a number of different initiatives. These have included the hosting of major events such as the 2016 International Children’s Winter Games, the 2018 UCI Road World Championships and the annual Crankworx mountain bike festival, and the development of new events such as the Tyrolean School Winter Games. Drawing on the huge enthusiasm of those who volunteered at the YOG, ITS has also established a permanent volunteer platform for those interested in supporting these and other major events in the region. And in January 2020, Innsbruck’s Olympic legacies will again be at the forefront when the city welcomes more than 3,000 athletes for the Winter World Masters Games.
According to Spazier – who worked as head of marketing and communications for the Innsbruck 2012 Organising Committee – none of these initiatives would have been possible without the successful staging of the Winter YOG.
“Only after managing to stay under our estimated budget [for the YOG] and reaching an agreement with the IOC and our governmental partners did we have the possibility to rebrand the same legal entity and develop a mid-term business plan with its core focus of producing and continuing a legacy for the YOG,” he explains.
“Within the last four years, we have now been able to build up one of the largest volunteer platforms in Europe – which recently delivered its 200,000th volunteer working hour – while also developing one of the biggest kids’ winter sports projects in the country and continuously working on the further acquisition and execution of major sports events.”
According to Spazier, another significant legacy from the YOG has been the pool of talented young professionals the city can now draw on, who gained first-hand major event experience from their involvement in the Innsbruck 2012 Organising Committee.
“We have been able to hire young people with YOG experience, which has also helped them move further up the career ladder to become senior project managers,” reveals Spazier. “This has been a further socioeconomic impact [from the YOG], with the creation of new jobs and the development of young professionals.”
Having previously staged the Olympic Winter Games in 1964 and 1976, Innsbruck was already steeped in Olympic history, with the Winter YOG 2012 helping to breathe new life into the city’s existing Olympic legacies, in addition to creating new ones.
“The existing Olympic legacies from the ’64 and ’76 Games were extremely important for the 2012 development plans,” explains Spazier. “On the one hand, we used nearly all of the existing venues which were built for those Games. On the other hand, we were literally able to add some new colour to the city’s old – and nearly rusted – Olympic rings.”
And having now hosted three Olympic events, Spazier is in little doubt as to the impact the Games have had on Innsbruck and the region as a whole.
“The Olympic Games have really put Innsbruck on the international map for tourists, sports events and organisations alike,” he says.
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