The 2024 Winter Youth Olympics taking place in South Korea's Gangwon Province has a few "firsts" to its credit.
This is the first Winter Youth Games taking place outside Europe, with Austria, Norway and Switzerland having held the previous three editions. Gangwon 2024 is also the first Olympic Games whose host was selected in a revamped International Olympic Committee bidding process. Instead of pitting candidates against one another in a vote, the IOC chose a "preferred host" for "targeted dialogue," before putting the potential host to a vote by IOC members at the IOC Session.
The IOC also modified its Olympic Charter so that it would no longer select Olympic hosts seven years before the competition. It also changed the host from a city to multiple cities, regions or even countries. Gangwon Province was elected the host in January 2020.
This year's Winter Youth Games will also be the first without any events featuring athletes from different countries competing as one team, known as mixed National Olympic Committees events.
The mixed NOCs events were introduced at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics and made their winter debut two years later in Innsbruck in curling, figure skating and short track speed skating. The concept had been unique to the youth competition, where, without an official medal race, there is decidedly less pressure to reach the podium than at regular Olympics.
At Gangwon 2024, though, athletes will only represent their own nations. While still highlighting the importance of building friendships and learning about the culture of the host nation, Gangwon will place a greater focus on development for young athletes.
With the next Winter Olympics in Italy two years away, Gangwon 2024 could serve as, in the words of IOC President Thomas Bach," a great stepping stone for the Olympic Games one day.
Gangwon and the IOC have essentially replaced mixed NOC events with mixed gender events in Nordic combined, cross-country skiing, biathlon, short track, ski jumping, alpine skiing and freestyle skiing.
Gangwon 2024 will open Friday for a two-week run across the province. (Yonhap)