The 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games have opened with a spectacular ceremony in Lausanne, Switzerland.
More than 8,000 spectators watched the event on Thursday eveningexternal link, which was focused on the themes of the Olympic spirit and home, and which was performed by local young people. The games were formally declared open by this year’s Swiss president, Simonetta Sommaruga.
The traditional athletes’ parade, consisting of the 79 flags of the 79 National Olympics Committees, was greeted by loud cheers, with the biggest for the final flagbearer, Switzerland’s Thibe Deseyn.
Swiss athletes were also part of the ceremony, including figure skating world champion and Olympic medallist Stéphane Lambielexternal link, who at the end of his performance handed over the baton to a young, next generation skater.
Swiss traditions and customs also featured during the show.
Preparations for the opening ceremony were however marred by a serious accident. A female Russian skater was severely injured after falling to the ice from about five meters at a rehearsal for the opening event. In a press conference on Thursday, International Olympic Committee Director Thomas Bach said that the skater was in a stable condition.
2 weeks of sport, experience
The 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games will be taking place over the next two weeks in the Olympic capital Lausanne and its surrounding areas, as well as in the mountain resort of St Moritz, in the southeastern canton of Graubünden.
They bring together the world’s best athletes between the ages of 15 and 18. There are 1,880 participants in the games, 112 of them are representing Switzerland.
The event features eight sports and 16 disciplines, such as ice hockey, ice skating, downhill skiing and snowboarding.
Swiss Olympic, the umbrella organisation of Swiss sports association, said in a statementexternal link that it wants the Swiss team to shine in front of the home crowd. Corinne Staub, head of youth olympic team support for Swiss Olympic, said she was curious how the young team, which is evenly split between boys and girls, would deal with the large public interest.
“We really hope that our athletes are able to perform to their best under these circumstances. But they should also soak up the unique atmosphere in Lausanne and gain important experience,” she said.