{jcomments off}By Tom Degun in Innsbruck

Jacques Rogge_at_Innsbruck_2012_closing_ceremony_January_22_2012January 22 - In keeping with the theme of the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games, an unspectacular yet charming and vibrant Closing Ceremony bought proceedings to a close at Innsbruck 2012 as an enthusiastic crowd of 4,000 gathered in the city centre at the Maria-Theresien-Strasse for the climax of the successful ten-day competition.

The highlight of the short Ceremony, which lasted less than an hour in total, saw the Olympic Flag passed from Innsbruck to Lillehammer, who will host the next edition of the Winter Youth Olympics in 2016.

Receiving the Olympic Flag on behalf of Innsbruck was Norway's 14-year-old cross country skier Mathea Tofte, who is expected to be one of the stars of Lillehammer 2016.

Tofte received the Olympic Flag as it was passed from the Mayor of Innsbruck Christine Oppitz-Plörer, to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, to Mayor of Lillehammer Espen Johnson and finally to the young Norwegian.

It was perhaps fitting that Tofte (pictured) received the Olympic Flag on behalf of Lillehammer as she is the daughter of Britt Pettersen, the famous Norwegian cross country skier who claimed gold at the Sarajevo 1984 Olympic Games.

Mathea Tofte_after_receiving_flag_Innsbruck_January_22_2012
As Tofte took the Olympic Flag, the official Lillehammer 2016 video was played on the giant screen on the stage, inviting the world's best young winter sport athletes to attend and fireworks were sent into the night sky to bring a conclusion to the event.

The Olympic Flag handover followed a short Ceremony which began with the traditional athletes' parade.

It was followed by the performance of the official song by 15-year-old EMA before the IOC President and the Innsbruck 2012 chairman Richard Rubatscher took to the stage for their closing speeches.

Following a speech from Rubatscher, Rogge praised all in attendance for helping to create a truly exceptional event.

"By all measures, the first Winter Youth Olympic Games exceeded expectations and established a solid foundation for future Youth Games," he said.

"They were superbly refreshing Games."

Addressing the athletes directly, he added: "You are role models for your generation. You have started something special in Innsbruck and no matter what happens in your sports career from this point, all of you are equipped to become future leaders."

The athletes at the event helped to make Olympic history by participating in a number of events that appeared for the first time on an Olympic programme in Innsbruck ahead of their inclusion in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

These included women's ski jumping, ski halfpipe and snowboard slopestyle.

The Games also featured innovative new formats such as the mixed country doubles competition in curling; the mixed sport event cross-country/biathlon; mixed gender luge and ice hockey skills challenge.

Innsbruck 2012_Closing_Ceremony
A total of 70 countries participated in the Winter Youth Olympic Games, including Morocco, which became the first African country to win a medal at a winter Olympic event when Adam Lamhamedi took gold in the men's super-G.

In total more than 110,000 spectators supported the athletes over the course of the Games, as they competed at the world-class indoor and outdoor venues, with almost 35,000 fans packing out the Medals Plaza where the victory ceremonies and evening concerts took place.

"There were so many firsts at these Games, so many incredible moments for the athletes and everyone involved in staging this event," added Rogge.

"Innsbruck was a terrific continuation of the excellent work done at the first Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, and it bodes very well for the future of the Youth Olympic Games.

"I now declare the Innsbruck 2012 Youth Olympic to be closed and call on the youth of the world to assemble in Lillehammer in four years' time."

Media interest in the Youth Olympic Games was strong, with highlights broadcast in more than 60 territories, and over 15,000 articles written worldwide.

The IOC also brought the action to 8.5 million fans on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Sina Weibo, as well as via its website.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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January 2012: Snow covered Innsbruck welcomes inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games with charming Opening Ceremony