I felt a great sense of history and occasion when I attended the opening of the YOG. More than 200 nations were represented. That's more than the United Nations. Only the Olympic Movement could generate such worldwide interest for a new event. It sent a powerful message to young people everywhere – that sport matters.
This was not just a life-changing experience for the thousands of young people taking part, but also a major new global sporting event, a milestone for the Olympic Movement, and indeed, I believe, for the wider international sporting and youth movements.
For here is a sporting event with a real difference – and one that will make a real difference. It's one where winning is not everything, and success judged not by national or individual medal tallies.
Rather, success is judged by personal bests – PBs – on and off the sporting field. It's judged in participation in education and cultural programmes running alongside the competition.
Could it possibly be a success?
On the eve of the YOG Opening Ceremony, IOC President Jacques Rogge said: 'I feel like a father waiting in the delivery room for the birth to happen... I'm optimistic. But I still want to see the baby being born.'
And what an important birth it was! YOG is in many ways a prototype, a new approach to sport for young people – an event fashioned around the image and interests of young people in the 21st century. It's an event that will help carry the timeless traditions of the Olympic Movement in new and contemporary formats and settings relevant to young people.
There were only two and half years (not the normal seven or more of an Olympic Games) from conception to the birth of these Youth Games, followed by 12 days of tension, excitement, scrutiny, and competition before the new baby could be declared 'safe, well, and thriving'.
That can surely be done now.
Some may have initially doubted the successful staging of YOG and the Herculean task of delivering a new global sporting event in a world still recovering from a massive recession. Others suggested the international sports calendar would have trouble sustaining another event.
But this was an event that centred on young people, and young people have a proven habit of turning convention and negative thinking on its head... and so it was with YOG...
Innovation in sport
YOG proved to be an incubator for innovation in sport: 3-on-3 half-court basketball was the hot new sport to emerge and could make a debut at future Olympic Games. It would follow in the footsteps of BMX, Mountain Bike and Snow Board and Ski-Cross as senior Olympic Games sports that have captured the imagination and interest of young athletes and people.
The power to inspire
YOG also proved it had inherited one of the defining characteristics of the Olympic movement and the senior Olympic Games: the power to inspire. Those who witnessed American and Cuban athletes teaming together for the first time in decades in YOG’s innovative combined nation events will attest to that fact.
Haiti saw YOG as important enough to send a team to participate in Singapore, despite the devastation and heartbreak suffered by the nation through the horrendous earthquake, and won silver medal in the boys’ football despite such overwhelming odds.
There were many other examples of nations and individuals doing and sharing inspiring acts and moments.
A truly successful Games
These Games have been a success at so many levels – from the smooth, professional and efficient operation of the city and its transport systems; to the quality of competition on display in the venues, which attracted spectators, media coverage and journalists from around the world. (These included the IOC’s Young Reporters, who grilled me during an interview session; I am delighted that two of these young reporters and photographers will be joining the Press Operations team in London for the 2012 Games.)
And of course YOG produced some compelling sporting performances – from the brilliant young Chinese gymnast Tan Sixin who won four medals, to the young Jamaican sprinter Odane Skeene whose performances inevitably generated comparisons with his famous fellow countryman the unique Usain Bolt. Odane won gold in the 100 metres sprint and in the new ‘medley relay’ event, which combines runners over 100, 200, 300 and 400 metres, and was another popular new format at the Games.
Closer to home, strong performances from Charlie Grice in the 1500 metres and other Team GB athletes confirmed the world-class talent coming through the ranks, and how the London 2012 Olympic and Paralaympic Games has inspired a new generation of young athletes and re-energised sport in the UK.
You may well see some of the stars of the first YOG at London 2012. London will stage spectacular Games for young people - 21,000 schools and colleges in the UK are already involved in projects about the London 2012 Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Values, through our Get Set education programme.
Sport unites and inspires
I believe YOG will serve as a powerful reminder to the world of the importance of sport in bringing people together, helping to educate, inform and inspire change and cultural understanding; and the importance of the Olympic Movement's unique combination of sport, culture, education and environment, and its values.
YOG should also act as a timely reminder that in the world today millions of children do not have the opportunity to gain the health, education and social benefits of sport and physical activity - a goal to which we are committed at London 2012 through our International Inspiration programme.
I want to close by giving due credit and praise to the IOC, and in particular its President Jacques Rogge, and to Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli for their determination, against many odds, in pursuing the vision of a Youth Olympic Games, and bringing it to such a stunning fruition in Singapore. Jacques Rogge has shown in his Presidency his deep commitment to the youth of the world, and the first ever YOG will forever be testament to and proof of that commitment.