Road To The Olympic Games

Youth Olympics

Olympic spirit burning brightly at the Youth Olympics in Switzerland

Downtown Lausanne has been transformed into a Winter Youth Olympics wonderland as locals and fans from around the world have gathered to celebrate the first Games in the country since St. Moritz hosted the Olympics in 1948.

First time country has played host to an Olympics since 1948

A boy skis down an artificial run in the streets of Lausanne. (Thomas Skrlj for COC/CBC Sports)

LAUSANNE — Midway through the Youth Olympics it's become apparent Switzerland is fully embracing the Games.

Downtown Lausanne has been transformed into a Winter Youth Olympics wonderland as locals and fans from around the world have gathered to celebrate the first Games in the country since St. Moritz hosted the Olympics in 1948.

The theme of these Youth Olympics is "home" — Lausanne was named the Olympic Capital 26 years ago and all throughout the city the familiar rings can be seen and signage welcoming people to the Youth Olympics is everywhere.

In many ways, this is the return to a place rooted in the Olympic spirit.

Fans have flocked to city streets to take in festivities throughout the day and into the night. Sporting venues all across the country have been jam-packed with fans cheering wildly for the more than 1,800 athletes representing 79 competing nations.

Artificial curling rinks allow spectators to try their hand at the sport. (Thomas Skrlj for COC/CBC Sports)

If there was concern going into these Games about whether or not Switzerland would support the event, they've been put to rest. About 3,800 volunteers have been welcoming people at bus stops, train stations, arenas and mountain tops ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Hundreds of people have been attending the nightly medal ceremonies downtown, not only supporting their local Swiss sporting heroes but all of the athletes competing at the Games.

And fans of the Games can even take part in some of the events in their own way.

There is a ski demonstration in the middle of one of the Lausanne streets — an artificial surface blankets the winding, sloped road with inflatable bumpers on both sides. Fans can strap on a pair of skis and take to the street skiing. Not far from the ski exhibit is street curling. A vinyl rink has taken over the street for fans to throw rocks and practice their draw weight.

There's even a go-kart track that winds around the Olympic torch.

One of the key aspects of the Youth Olympics has been to engage students from across Switzerland in the Games.

More than 13,000 local students in Lausanne and surrounding communities have been learning about the Olympic values. And many thousands more have been able to venture out to venues across the country to take in the sports.

Spectators try their hand at figure skating in an artificial rink in Lausanne. (Thomas Skrlj for COC/CBC Sports)

Competitions are being hosted in eight different sites, including one in France. It marks the first time in Olympic history two countries are hosting events. The best part of it all is that is that every event is free, a step taken by the International Olympic Committee to make the Games more accessible.

And people have been taking advantage. Whether on the slopes, in the curling rink or outside on the ice at St. Moritz, venues have been packed with thousands of fans taking in the events.

Located on the banks of Lake Geneva, the Olympic Museum is one of the must-see spots in Lausanne and during the Youth Olympics it's also free to the public, another move by the planning committee to expose as many people as possible to the Olympic movement.

More than 300,000 people visit the museum every year, taking in the treasure trove of Olympic history. It showcases every Olympic torch, every Olympic medal, and includes an interactive history of the Games tracing them back to their earliest days all the way to today.

The Olympic Museum in Lausanne. (Thomas Skrlj for COC/CBC Sports)

With more than 10,000 artifacts from past Games, including equipment and uniforms from past athletes,  and upwards of seven hours of video highlights shown throughout three floors of the Olympic Museum, fans are treated to an exquisite display of sporting history.

The museum was founded in 1993 and two years later was named European Museum of the Year. It received a massive facelift in 2013. After 23 months of renovation the museum nearly doubled in size. There are three major themes throughout the museum, each taking up a floor.

The tour begins on the lowest level and highlights the "Olympic World" – this area is mainly focused on the history of the Games and documents major moments at Opening Ceremonies. The second floor is covered with "Olympic Games" moments, with more than 1,000 video clips of athletic performances. And finally, on the first floor, visitors get a glimpse of the "Olympic Spirit" where medals are on display and interactive stations allow people the chance to try some of the sports.

Outside the Olympic Museum a park containing numerous works of art pays homage to the Games.

There are six more days of competition at the Youth Olympics, showcasing men's hockey, snowboarding and bobsledding among other sports.

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