Innsbruck Winter Youth Olympics Underway

The Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games officially began Friday with an Opening Ceremony at the Bergisel stadium, located in the heart of Innsbruck.

More than 1,000 athletes, ages 15 to 18, marched in the athletes parade, followed by speeches from International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, and Richard Rubatscher, Chairman of the Innsbruck 2012 Organising Committee.

The newly created Youth Olympic cauldron and the two existing cauldrons from the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympic Games were set ablaze.

The ceremony fused Tyrolean tradition and modern youth culture, with entertainment that included freestyle skiers and snowboarders jumping overhead, and a paring of ancient Tyrolean dances with the hip hop crew.

The stage and costumes were designed by students from local colleges.

Rogge said, “for the first time, young people from around the world have come together for the Winter Youth Olympic Games, a global celebration of sport and Olympic values.

“You have come here from 70 countries not just to compete against each other, but also to learn from each other. Some of the friendships formed over the next nine days will last a lifetime, and so will the memories”.

In attendance at the ceremony were Austrian President Heinz Fischer, Coordination Commission Chairman for the Winter Youth Olympic Games Gian-Franco Kasper, and Olympic champion and Youth Olympic Games Ambassador Yuna Kim.

The Innsbruck Youth Games will feature the seven sports now on the Winter Olympic Games program, including three new events – women’s ski jumping, ski halfpipe and snowboard slopestyle.

Mixed-gender and mixed-country events will also form part of the program, with a mixed Alpine skiing parallel team event and mixed-country short track skating team relay.

Mixed-sport events such as cross-country biathlon will be introduced for the first time.