By Gary R. Blockus | Oct. 06, 2017, 10:36 a.m. (ET)
Fireworks explode over Mariana Bay during the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games closing ceremony at Marina Bay on Aug. 26, 2010 in Singapore.

 

Mark those 2018 calendars, because we are now officially just one year away from the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The Youth Olympic Games are designated for athletes ages 15-18 from around the world, along with non-competitors such as young reporters, ambassadors and athlete role models, to forge a spirit of competitiveness and camaraderie.

Since the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, the summer Games have been contested every four years with the Winter Games in the even-numbered year between them.

“I think that it’s just a great honor for everyone to represent their country,” said professional golfer Michelle Wie, who served as an ambassador for the Youth Olympic Games Nanjing 2014. “Every time I have the opportunity to represent our country, it’s just amazing. There’s so much pride in representing the USA.”

With the Youth Olympic Games headed to Argentina on Oct. 6-18, 2018, this marks the first time the summer event will be held outside of Asia, and it’s also the first time a YOG will be held in the Americas. The two previous Winter Youth Olympic Games were held in Innsbruck, Austria, in 2014 and Lillehammer, Norway, in 2016.

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New Sports On Tap

The Youth Olympic Games provides an opportunity to showcase new sports and disciplines, including several mixed team events.

New sports and disciplines have been added to the 2018 program, bringing the total number of competitions in Buenos Aires to 32.

“Each Youth Olympic Games adds new sports and disciplines and showcases events that are relevant to the present youth community,” Lynn Wentland, the United States Olympic Committee’s associate director for Games operations, who will serve as chef de mission for the 2018 Games, explained via email. “In addition, these Games will have a different feel because, for the first time, the YOG will be held in the Western Hemisphere.”

In addition to a host of traditional Olympic sports like swimming, archery, boxing, field hockey and more, this year’s Youth Olympic Games will include competitions in karate and sport climbing — teasers for events that will make their Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.

Dancesport, or break dancing, which is completely new as an Olympic sport on any level, will feature men’s, women’s and mixed teams in a battle format. The American continental qualifier is set for Philadelphia.

Roller sports will stage speedskating events utilizing a perfect gender split: 24 athletes — 12 men and 12 women. They will compete in the 500-, 1,000- and 5,000-meter distances.

The new disciplines added include:

• BMX freestyle, an extreme sport, based on stunt riding

• Beach handball, which is similar to team handball but played on a beach

• Acrobatics, a form of gymnastics in which athletes work in partnership with one another to form figures with acrobatic moves, all set to music

• Kiteboarding, which combines elements of wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing and paragliding into a thrilling sport with riders propelling themselves across water on the kiteboard, an apparatus that resembles a small surf board using a specially designed kite

• Futsal, a hard-court, 5-on-5 version of soccer played with a ball filled with foam that makes it heavier and gives it less bounce than a traditional soccer ball. It is replacing soccer, which was contested in 2010 and 2014.

What’s It All About?

Ty Walker, a 2014 U.S. Olympic snowboarder who is going for a spot in another Winter Games this coming February, has been tabbed as Team USA’s Young Change-Maker for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

“I think trying to be a positive influence and a role model is the most important thing,” said Walker, who finished 14th in women’s slopestyle in 2014 in Sochi. “For me, it’s great to be a good athlete and a good student, but it doesn’t matter unless you’re a good person.”

That’s the whole idea.

“The Youth Olympic Games are both an athletic and a cultural, learning event,” Wentland said. “It brings youth from across the world together to share experiences. An emphasis at these Games centers around the learning and sharing activities. These Games have a focus and spirit that uses sport as a platform to grow youth sport, learning and community.”

The Youth Olympic Games are guided by a Culture and Education Program based around five main themes: Olympism, Social Responsibility, Skills Development, Expression, and Well-Being and Healthy Lifestyles.

Kate Anderson, a U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletics manager, who served as Team USA’s Young Change-Maker (then called Young Ambassador) for the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games, found the experience invigorating.

“Above all, it was a huge amount of fun,” Anderson said. “No one day was ever the same and I met some incredible people. My principal role was to help the athletes get involved with the many ‘Learn & Share’ activities in Lillehammer, and they really embraced everything which was on offer. It was so satisfying to see each athlete make the most of the whole YOG experience and not just narrowly focus on their own events.”

And it’s just one year away.

Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.