Innsbruck (Austria): New life needs to be breathed into the Olympic Games with younger athletes and audiences in mind, IOC chief Jacques Rogge said on Friday ahead of the opening of the first ever Winter Youth Olympics.

'We need to rejuvenate the Olympic programme, we need to adapt the Olympic programme to the wishes and the needs of the youth and not stay too conservative,' the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) told a press conference.

'And I think the Youth Games are the ideal place to experiment with that,' the 69-year-old said as the countdown ran to the opening ceremony on Friday evening of the first Winter Youth Games in Innsbruck, Austria.

More than a younger version of the traditional Olympic Games, the Youth Games (YOG), with athletes from 14 to 18 taking part, will also introduce new disciplines to the programme, including halfpipe freestyle skiing and women's ski jumping.

Other events are being expanded to include mixed-gender, mixed-nationality and mixed-discipline competitions.

Some of these will then be held for the first time in the next traditional Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia in 2014.

In all, 70 national Olympic committees are taking part in these Youth Games, 'which for winter sport is a very good figure', said Rogge.

More than 900 media representatives have been accredited to cover the event and broadcast rights have been sold to 69 countries, while a digital feed was also running online at olympic.org and innsbruck2012.org, he added.

Although the Youth Olympic Games premiered in Singapore 2010, this is the first winter edition of the event.

But Rogge was confident of its success, citing the good work of the organisation committee, the concept which proved its worth in Singapore and the venue, which makes Innsbruck the first city ever to host Olympic Games three times, after 1964 and 1976.

'We believe that these games are important in that they allow us to give education to athletes at an age where they are very respective of that. We think that these Games will be a magnet for better sport participation,' said Rogge.

'We have seen in Singapore that the concept of allying elite sports, culture and education is something that appeals to young people. It appeals not only to the athletes, it also appealed to the coaches and officials.'

The culture and education programme, held in parallel to the sporting events, was a key feature of the Youth Games in Singapore and was expanded in Innsbruck, to advise young athletes on their career, and give them tips on everything from nutrition to how to give an interview.

More than 1000 athletes will take part in 63 medal events in all traditional winter Olympic disciplines until January 22.

(Agencies)