Singapore bests Moscow, will host 2010 Youth Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Singapore will host the first Youth Olympic Games in 2010.

The Southeast Asian city-state of 4.5 million people beat out Moscow in a vote of the International Olympic Committee. The result was announced Thursday by IOC president Jacques Rogge during a ceremony at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

In a postal ballot of IOC members, Singapore defeated the Russian capital 53-44.

Singapore has never hosted a major international multisports event but held a sentimental edge over Moscow. The IOC was eager to reward a city which might never be able to stage the full Olympics.

"We dared to dream, we worked hard to pursue our dream despite the odds, and now the dream will become a reality," Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

The Youth Games will feature about 3,200 athletes aged 14-18 competing in 26 sports. The event, to be held every four years, is designed to encourage youngsters to get involved in sports and spend less time in front of computer and television screens. The first Winter Youth Olympics will be in 2012.

"It's a great honor and privilege for all of us, for Singapore and every Singaporean," Lee said. "For the first time, the 'Olympics' name will be in Southeast Asia, and in Singapore. We will be the focus of a new era of sports development for Singapore, for Southeast Asia and for the Olympic movement."

Lee spoke at a public gathering in Singapore that included about 5,000 students from 90 schools, most of whom were decked out in red and were assembled at a large field in front of the downtown City Hall to listen to the result from Lausanne.

"We worked very hard for seven months," Lee said. "It was a national effort, but more than that, it was a people's effort. .... Now, the countdown to 2010 begins. We have 2½ years to prepare for the Youth Olympic Games. It's going to be challenging, but it's going to be full of excitement and achievements."

Moscow hosted the 1980 Olympics, and Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi was picked last year to stage the 2014 Winter Games.

"Moscow was a little bit penalized by the fact that Sochi was awarded the Winter Games," Rogge told The Associated Press. "I think the prevailing sentiment among the IOC members is also that they prefer to give it to a new city that has not organized a Games."

"No doubt, the games will be held at a good level because Singapore has the necessary resources and potential," Russian committee spokesman Gennady Shvets said. "The Olympics is our common cause. There can be no losers. ... There is some degree of frustration, but it was a good contest and there is a worthy winner."

IOC members are well acquainted with Singapore, which hosted the IOC general assembly in 2005 where London was picked as host of the 2012 Olympics.

"This is a key moment for the Olympic movement," Rogge said. "Singapore has put together a very exciting project. Hosting the Youth Olympic Games for the first time is a great responsibility, and I have every confidence in the team in Singapore."

Rogge will visit Singapore next week with Sergei Bubka, the pole vault world record holder and IOC member from Ukraine who will lead a panel monitoring preparations in the host city.

Rogge said broadcasters will be offered free daily television highlights from the Singapore Games.

"We know that youth sport is a difficult issue for broadcasters who are not showing much of it and I regret that," he said. "However, this exposure will be much bigger than for any other junior world championships."

Singapore, with a games budget of $75 million, will use 24 venues, including one large cluster for 13 sports. Nineteen of the venues already exist, four would be built as temporary facilities and one is under construction for equestrian.

Singapore was asked by the IOC to provide contingency plans for a second athletes' village to allay concerns its first choice might not be ready.

Construction work began last month for a 5,000-bed residence at the National University of Singapore. The facility, costing $423 million, is due to be completed six months before the Aug. 14, 2010, opening ceremony at the Marina Bay Floating Stadium.

"I think there will be no problem with the athletes' village," Bubka said. "We have had guarantees explaining how the building will be done but we need to be very careful. They have good venues and we know from visiting Singapore in 2005 how they are hosting people from around the world."

Singapore and Moscow made the final list after the elimination of Athens, Greece; Bangkok, Thailand; Turin, Italy; Debrecen, Hungary; Guatemala City; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Poznan, Poland.

"The Youth Olympic Games are the flagship of the IOC's determination to reach out to young people," Rogge said. "These games will not only be about competition. They will also be the platform through which youngsters will learn about the Olympic values and the benefits of sport."