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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Eyeing Olympics, City Prepares for Youth Games




Eager to one day bring the Olympics back to Moscow, the city government is going all out to make sure that the first World Youth Games are a success, officials said Thursday.


Moscow will play host to about 7,500 young athletes, aged 13 to 17, in the games being held in mid-July under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee.


At least 126 countries are sending delegations. The largest will be from the host country Russia, with Brazil, China and the United States close behind.


Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov is bringing his customary zeal to his job as chairman of the games' organizing committee. Openly billing them as the Youth Olympics, he is hoping to make them into a showcase for the city and bolster its bid to hold the Summer Games in 2012.


The city plans to spend more than 200 million rubles ($33 million) to cover the cost of the competitions, including housing, transportation and meals for the young athletes. But Luzhkov's administration is also racking up corporate sponsorship.


"At the moment we have signed contracts with various sponsors for a total of $10 million," Leonid Belov, the city official responsible for the games' infrastructure, said Thursday at the weekly briefing at the Intourist Hotel.


"But the mayor gave us strict orders to increase that amount to $20 million, and I think we will be able to achieve that goal," Belov said.


Moscow Bank, which is owned by the city, pitched in $3 million and will be the main sponsor, he said. Sberbank, Bank Menatep, Coca-Cola Co., Rank Xerox and others also have contributed.


"The minimum amount to become one of our sponsors is $50,000," Belov said. "Coca-Cola, for example, paid us $800,000 for the rights to become the games' official soft drink."


The city is building a brand new Olympic village in southwest Moscow to house the athletes.


"We are giving it our top priority," Belov said. "Thousands are working around the clock to ensure that by June 15 at the latest, as our mayor demanded, everything will be finished."


The city said it has had no trouble bringing in competitors and had to turn away some of the 10,000 hopefuls.


"Actually, the worldwide demand to participate in this competition has exceeded our possibilities," said Lev Kofman, the games' general director. "It's like the real Olympic Games, where the hosts have to limit the number of participants.


Russia will field the largest delegation, consisting of 289 members, including 212 athletes.


"Brazil will have the biggest foreign contingent of almost 230 people," Kofman said. "China also will send more than 200, and the Americans are bringing a very strong team of 193 people."


Although some competitions will start earlier, the opening ceremony will not be held until July 13 so as not to overlap with the World Cup in France. The youth games will end on July 19, as the sports world's attention shifts to the Goodwill Games in New York.


The youth games are to be graced by the Olympic flame, which Luzhkov plans to light personally in Greece on June 23.