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Nanjing gears up for billion-yuan youth games

The gymnasium that will hold the opening and closing ceremonies of the Asian Youth Games.

The gymnasium that will hold the opening and closing ceremonies of the Asian Youth Games.

China will stretch its already impressive one-billion-yuan (Bt5 billion) budget to power a faster, higher and stronger Asian Youth Games from August 16-24 in Nanjing, says vice-chairman of the International Olympic Committee Yang Weize.

"We have opted to rent or borrow instead of buying. We are refurbishing or renovating instead of constructing new sports venues or buildings. And we have recruited our youngsters to promote the games instead of hiring stars," he said.

Of the one billion yuan, Yang said half is coming from domestic and foreign private sponsorship, with foreign funds slightly higher than domestic. More than 3,000 athletes from 40 out of 45 member countries have registered to participate in the Games, which are held every four years.

Yang said China nominated Nanjing to host both the 2013 Asian Youth Games and the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics because the city already had sport venues and equipment in place to cater to international events, while its youth population is higher than that of most other Chinese cities.

As the city starts the countdown, Yang admitted that officials working to prepare for the Games are feeling the pressure. "But there is no cause for worry as we can increase our work hours to meet the schedule. We can proudly say that there is no country in the world that has major cities like China to support international sport events," he said.

With an urban population of over eight million, Nanjing is the second-largest commercial centre in East China after Shanghai. Nanjing also boasts a rich history - it was the capital of China through six dynasties and also during the Chiang Kai-shek period.

Surprisingly, the opening and closing ceremonies for the Games have been diverted away from the Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre, which has 62,000 seats, to the Centre's gymnasium. Yang explains that the high costs involved in filling the large stadium would be better spent elsewhere.

The Athletes' Village in the Nanjing University of Technology will be home to the 14-17-year-old Games hopefuls. Around 3,500 athletes will share apartment rooms in 22 eight-storey buildings, four in each room at the university's campus, which was built recently to house the university's staff and teachers. The athletes will have ample opportunity to interact with their local peers, as hundreds of university students have volunteered as interpreters, first-aid workers and other roles.

Chehchen Wu, a student in her senior year at the Faculty of Chemical Engineering who took part in the Games' promotional video, said she volunteered to be an interpreter because she felt proud that her city was to host this international event.

Other student volunteers expressed not only pride but also passion for volunteering, which reflects the Games' slogan: "Celebrating Youth, Passionate Asia". Yang said the main objective for China in hosting the Games is to foster a life-long spirit of respect, love, unity, discipline, responsibility and sportsmanship in youngsters, while also bringing greater prosperity to Nanjing.

Holding a traditional torch relay through 238 cities of 45 countries could cost over a million yuan, Yang said, so the Games had opted for a "virtual" torch relay. The Game's mascot "Yuan Yuan" is acting as the virtual torchbearer, travelling through challenging and famous scenic locations.

Just 22 days after the launch of the torch relay on May 8, Yang said some seven million people had downloaded applications for online registration for the opportunity to become torchbearers and win prizes.






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