2018 Youth Games - calling Mr. T

SINGAPORE -- If it is at all possible that any of the movies in the Rocky series qualifies as cinematic achievement, then perhaps the line uttered by Mr. T, playing Clubber Lang in 1982's Rocky III, stands alone as one of the fine lines in movie history. It is, of course, "I pity the fool!"

These first-ever Youth Games, which closed Thursday to a resounding fireworks show, were by virtually every operational measure a resounding success. The next Summer edition comes in Nanjing, China, in 2014 -- where, as here, there will be little concern about spending money. The Singapore 2010 budget, in American dollars at current exchange rates: $285 million, three times the original estimate, the government's sports minister confirmed Thursday.

After Singapore and then China, who wants to put on these Games in 2018? The International Olympic Committee won't decide for a little while yet. But it is tempting even now to declare: I pity the fool!

Unless and until the U.S. Olympic Committee resolves its longstanding revenue-related dispute with the International Olympic Committee, there's zero reason for the United States to consider a YOG bid. Not that the USOC is asking for my advice but here it is: don't do it.

Plus, there's no reason for the USOC to get into the YOG game. Someone, somewhere will be only too glad to stand up and take on 2018. Better they do it than the U.S. run the risk of following 2010 and 2014.

Nothing is perfect, and these Singapore Youth Games weren't, hardly to be expected from a new initiative. Even so, the glitches were just that -- glitches.

As a consequence, it's almost too bad for the IOC that this first YOG, as it is commonly referred to in Olympic-speak, was held here.

Why? Because Singapore organizers set the bar so high that what's next may be all too predictable -- a rush by successive organizing committees to out-do the one before, and thus a challenge to the very ethos that animated YOG, and ought to keep doing so.

YOG is not the Summer Games. It is not the Winter Games.

It is, instead, a sports festival for teenagers overlaid with a cultural and educational program.

In these two weeks, it took huge steps toward creating an identity distinct from the traditional Summer Games.

It is, as the IOC and the international sports federations intended it, a laboratory for tinkering with various sports and formats -- everything from 3-on-3 basketball to the mixed team events that saw, for instance, an American and Cuban compete together in modern pentathlon.

The odds of seeing any of these experiments any time soon as part of the formal Summer Games program? Close to zero. You might, for instance, see 3-on-3 at the London 2012 or Rio 2016 Games but not as a medal event -- as halftime entertainment in the basketball tournament itself.

The IOC didn't keep a medals count in Singapore but everyone else assuredly did. Of course they did; the Olympic franchise means flags, anthems and medals, though some had suggested the Youth Games could do without. No way.

Fifty nations won at least one gold medal, among them Eritrea and Vietnam. Some treated YOG as a sort-of junior Games (China, with 51 medals overall). Some treated it as a developmental event, sending athletes who might or very well might not ever make it to the Summer Games  (the United States, which typically tops the Summer Olympic overall medals count but finished here with 25.)

Nauru, the world's smallest island nation, all of eight square miles out in the vast Pacific Ocean, won a medal here -- a silver in boxing.

A Saudi girl, Dalma Rushdi H Malhas, the first Saudi female to compete at an Olympic event, won bronze in equestrian.

Haiti's boys soccer team took silver. "Our countries are all united by the tragedies we have suffered," a 15-year-old girls' soccer player from Chile, Romina Orellana, said of the 2010 earthquakes in Haiti, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and her own nation.

YOG was filled with such genuine, indeed lovely, moments and sentiments.

Unclear, though, from the start -- and still so -- is how to measure the import of the formal culture and education program.

Yes, some famous Olympic stars (Frankie Fredericks, Yelena Isinbayeva) came here for chats. And -- so?

Yes, a bunch of booths were set up in the athletes' village that depicted life in the various nations of the world -- Malaysia next to Lebanon next to Laos, for instance, each booth staffed by Singaporeans wearing costumes from whichever country it was. The booths seemed like something you might see at an American high school's version of International Day. It's entirely uncertain whether the booths were totally cheesy or because the target audience was, in fact, high-schoolers, pitch-perfect.

Many of the IOC members toured the booths, and the village. Within the IOC itself, YOG was a huge event -- 108 of the members, nearly all of them, made an appearance here.

Within Singapore, YOG was big news. It occupied several pages a day within the main local paper, the Straits Times.

Elsewhere, though, YOG proved a blip. If that.

Going forward, one of the key challenges YOG faces -- if not the main one -- is how to make this two-week event relevant to the young audience the IOC is seeking to reach.

Because it's in essence a high-school track meet (swim meet, gymnastics meet and so on), there's little to no interest from major broadcasters in televising significant chunks of it. Odane Skeen of Jamaica, who won the boys' 100-meter dash, was timed in 10.42 seconds. Usain Bolt's world record is 9.58. If it's at all possible for eight-tenths of a second to explain why broadcasters are highly unlikely to ever invest significantly in YOG, that's it in a nutshell.

The IOC is absolutely right, as it did aggressively here, to explore the potential of new media. Again, YOG is a laboratory for experimentation. As the IOC pointed out in a news release issued Thursday, videos on the Youth Olympic Games Channel have been viewed over five million times, and at one point it was the third most-watched YouTube channel worldwide.

The challenge is that as impressive as that sounds, it's really not -- at least not yet, in terms of global reach. That's because huge numbers of people in the world have access to a TV but not to a computer. How long will it be until that changes? A generation? Longer?

"You will be a Young Olympian for the rest of your life," IOC president Jacques Rogge said Wednesday when asked if the competitors could consider themselves "Olympic athletes." He said further, "You won't be young forever but being a young Olympian is something they can never take away from you."

Right. But what, exactly, does that mean?