Snow covered Innsbruck welcomes inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games with charming Opening Ceremony
Friday, 13 January 2012
January 13 - Innsbruck 2012 tonight delivered on their promise of hosting a "cosy rather than spectacular" Opening Ceremony for the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games, which nevertheless proved a heart-warming spectacle despite the freezing temperature at the snow covered Bergisel Stadium.
The undoubted highlight for the 15,000 spectators in attendance was the lighting of the Olympic Flame - or three Flames - because for the first time in the Games 116-year history, three cauldrons were lit simultaneously.
The reason for this was because the Bergisel Stadium held the Olympic Flames for the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics, the last two times that Innsbruck hosted the Games.
Shortly after Austrian President Heinz Fischer had declared the Games open, the Flame of the First Winter Youth Olympic Games arrived in the Bergisel Stadium.
It was carried through the excited crowd by a number of Olympic stars, including reigning Vancouver 2010 figure skating champion and Youth Olympic Games Ambassador Kim Yu-Na, before it was eventually handed to the legendary Egon Zimmermann.
Zimmermann, the Innsbruck 1964 Olympic champion in the men's downhill, then lit the Cauldron of the 1964 Olympic Winter Games.
Zimmermann then passed the Torch to Franz Klammer, the Innsbruck 1976 Olympic champion in the men's downhill, who lit the Cauldron of the 1976 Olympic Winter Games.
Finally it was the young Austrian ski jumper Paul Gerstgraser, who had won gold at the European Youth Olympic Flame Festival in Liberec last year, who lit the Cauldron of the Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games beside the two other brightly burning Olympic Flames.
The historical climax to the Ceremony followed an event that cleverly fused modern youth culture with Tyrolean tradition and entertainment that included freestyle skiers and snowboarders jumping overhead and the paring of ancient Tyrolean dances with a hip hop crew.
The Ceremony started with traditional Austrian singing and dancing before bloggers BASSS-T and Olympia took centre stage to show online videos featuring highlights from Innsbruck 1964 and 1976.
More young dancers took to the stage, with the freestyle skiers taking to the slopes, before International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge and Innsbruck 2012 chairman Richard Rubatscher made their speeches to the crowd.
It was Rogge, wearing the brightly coloured top of the Innsbruck 2012 volunteers, who spoke most poignantly to the 15,000 sell-out crowd and the 15 to 18-year-olds in attendance.
"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," he said.
"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."
Rogge then handed over to the Austrian President who said: "I now declare the Innsbruck 2012 Youth Olympic Games in Tyrol in Austria open."
The triple Flame lighting then took centre stage before it was left to 15-year-old EMA to perform the official Innsbruck 2012 song and the Ceremony concluded with an impressive firework display.
While the event was low key, it was certainly fitting of the historic Bergisel Stadium, which lies on the site famous for a battle in 1809 involving Napoleon.
Meanwhile the Winter Youth Olympic Games, which will run until January 22, will feature some of the world's most talented young athletes taking part in the seven sports currently on the winter Olympic programme, including three new events: women's ski jumping, ski halfpipe and snowboard slopestyle.
After their success at the inaugural Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, mixed-gender and mixed-country events will also form part of the programme, with a mixed alpine skiing parallel team event and mixed-country short track skating team relay.
In addition, mixed-sport events, such as cross-country biathlon, will be introduced for the first time.
Just under 1,100 athletes from 70 countries will compete at the event while nearly all 80,000 tickets for the competition have been sold.
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