Youth olympicsSunday, August 17, 2014
Games starts in China amid Ebola worries
Three athletes already barred
The 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games officially got under way in Nanjing on 16 August, with a pulsating Opening Ceremony at the city’s Olympic Sports Centre.
NANJING, China — The second Youth Olympics opened in a wet Nanjing yesterday with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach encouraging the teenage athletes to have fun and embrace social media.
“You are here to enjoy the competitions and to deliver your personal best performance,” the German said. “You are here to experience and promote the Olympic values of excellence, respect and friendship. You are here to celebrate the Olympic spirit.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the 13-day Games, for 3,800 athletes from 204 countries competing in 28 sports, open in front of 60,000 fans in Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was also present at the light, music and dance, fireworks and cultural ceremony which ended with Olympic diving champion Chen Ruolin lighting the cauldron.
The prelude to the Youth Games, the brainchild of former IOC president Jacques Rogge and first held in Singapore four years ago, had been disrupted by some West African athletes banned from competing in a few combat sports and pool events because of the deadly Ebola virus in the region.
Three athletes were barred from competition because of the risk of infection. The entire delegations from three nations affected by the virus — Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone — will also not be competing.
Athletes from regions affected by the Ebola outbreak are being prohibited from competing in combat sports due to “health authority guidelines” and aquatic events “based on the inability to completely exclude the risk of potential infection,” according to a statement issued Thursday by the International Olympic Committee.
Under that ruling, 16-year-old female judo athlete Mamadama Bangoura and 16-year-old male swimmer Alhoussene Sylla, both from Guinea, will miss the games, along with 16-year-old female Nigerian wrestler Bose Samuel. The three will be invited back to Nanjing later to take part in another sporting competition, the IOC statement said.
Organizers are conducting regular health checks on all athletes and officials from the four West African nations affected to prevent the spread of the virus.
Japanese athletes have also been warned not to wear official clothing in the region, the scene of a 1937 massacre where Chinese officials say 300,000 people were killed by Japanese troops.
Today’s first official day of competition will see medals awarded in shooting, weightlifting, triathlon, taekwondo, swimming, judo and fencing.
Herald staff with agencies