Nanjing 2014

Closing Ceremony

Youth Olympics wrap with Closing Ceremony, Lionel Messi cameo (photos)

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Lionel Messi, floating mascots and the words “selfie” and “hashtag” in the IOC president’s speech highlighted the Nanjing Youth Olympic Closing Ceremony, extinguishing the Olympic flame after 11 days of competition in the Chinese city.

IOC president Thomas Bach, who called on the athletes to take selfies in the Opening Ceremony, had a slightly different request in his speech Thursday.

“So again, I ask everybody here in this stadium, get your smart phones out — but do not take a selfie tonight,” Bach said. “In the Olympic spirit greet and thank the person next to you and take their picture. Share this token of friendship with the world, and post it with the hashtag #Nanjing2014.”

U.S. women’s rugby player Richelle Stephens was chosen as flag bearer for the 92-athlete delegation. Rugby is returning to the Olympics in 2016 for the first time since 1924.

The U.S. won 22 medals, including 10 golds, at the Youth Olympics, bettering its totals from the first Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010. Only host China and Russia placed higher on the medal table in Nanjing.

The Olympic Flag was handed over to Buenos Aires, which will host the 2018 Youth Olympics. Organizers played a video during the Closing Ceremony that included Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi.

Lillehammer will host the next Youth Winter Olympics in 2016. The Norwegian site hosted the largely praised 1994 Winter Olympics.

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NBCSN coverage of the Youth Olympics concludes Thursday with the Closing Ceremony (6:30-8 p.m. ET).

Youth Olympics broadcast schedule

Yao Ming reflects on Beijing 2008 at Youth Olympics (video)

Yao Ming, Lewis Johnson
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Yao Ming has been quite visible at the Youth Olympics, and not just because he’s one of the tallest Olympians ever.

The Chinese basketball star toured Nanjing as a Youth Olympic ambassador. He stopped for a sitdown chat with Lewis Johnson to look back on his Olympic experience and update on what he’s been doing since retiring in 2011.

Yao said he’s back in college to finish his studies in economic management, with one year left to get a degree.

“A different story now compared to my sports days,” he said. “A lot of paperwork. My neck is a little bit sore.”

He also said seeing the teenage athletes at the Games reminded him of childhood travel.

“Some people maybe for the first time are outside of their country,” Yao said. “I remember my first time outside of the country at 17 years old, heading to Paris. It’s a big change. It’s a big step and also changed a lot for my view.”

Finally, Johnson handed Yao a memorable image from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony, when Yao led the host nation into the Bird’s Nest with Lin Hao, a 9-year-old survivor of that year’s Sichuan earthquake.

“It’s a lot of emotion,” Yao said, reflecting. “The kid, he saved two of his classmates after the earthquake happened. You can see the scar on his head right there. What kind of heart he had right at this age. … That represents the future of China.”

NBCSN coverage of the Youth Olympics continues Wednesday (7-8 p.m. ET) and concludes Thursday with the Closing Ceremony (6:30-8).

Youth Olympics broadcast schedule

Thomas Bach hopes mixed-gender events in Nanjing impact Olympics (video)

Thomas Bach
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International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach sat down with Lewis Johnson in Nanjing to discuss the Youth Olympics, their potential impact on the Olympics and Rio de Janeiro’s preparation for the Games in 2016.

The Nanjing Youth Olympics marked the third edition of an idea coined by Bach’s predecessor, Jacques Rogge. The first Youth Olympics were held in Singapore in 2010, followed by the first Youth Winter Olympics in Austria in 2012.

“[Rogge] thought we have to do something for the younger athletes to make them familiar with the Olympic values, Olympic environment at an earlier stage than at the Olympic Games and to inspire more kids around the world to play sports,” Bach said.

Bach said he hoped that all of the mixed-gender events in Nanjing would serve as a test for men and women competing on the same teams in more sports at the Olympics.

Currently, badminton, equestrian and tennis have mixed-gender events in the Olympics. Figure skating, with pairs and ice dancing, has long been mixed gender. The Winter Games added mixed biathlon and luge relays for 2014.

“This is one of my darling subjects,” Bach said. “They are a great opportunity to develop women’s sports in smaller countries.”

Bach also expressed confidence in preparations for the Rio Olympics in two years.

“We see now things getting off the ground,” Bach said. “I’m sure Brazil will make it, because they know that they have no time to lose. But they see now the progress. They have confidence from having organized a good World Cup, and I’m sure in two years from now, we will enjoy an Olympic festival in Brazil.”

NBCSN coverage of the Youth Olympics continues Wednesday (7-8 p.m. ET) and concludes Thursday with the Closing Ceremony (6:30-8).

Youth Olympics broadcast schedule