IOC President Thomas Bach says the UTS World Virtual Youth Festival is a "wonderful illustration of how sport always builds bridges" ©Getty Images

Key sporting figures have officially opened the United Through Sports (UTS) World Virtual Youth Festival, with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and his International Paralympic Committee (IPC) counterpart Andrew Parsons among the speakers at the official Launch Ceremony.

Four workshops had been held across Saturday (November 20) and yesterday as part of the seven-day hybrid event, which is being hosted by Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh.

The Launch Ceremony was broadcast live on the Olympic Channel, featuring messages from children from across the world.

In his remarks, Bach claimed the UTS World Virtual Youth Festival epitomised sport's role in promoting global unity.

"The fact that this United Through Sports Festival is taking place only virtually demonstrates that the coronavirus pandemic is still very much a reality for all of us," the IOC President commented.

"At the same time this festival is also a wonderful illustration of how sport always builds bridges and brings people together, no matter how far apart we may be.

"This is why my message to all the children and youngsters participating in this festival is - have a lot of fun over the coming days.

"This is what sport is all about, making us dream, inspiring us, encouraging us to always give it our best, making new friends and filling our hearts with joy.

"The IOC is proud to be a patron for this unique event, spreading the values of sport and the Olympic spirit in these difficult times."

Parsons pledged the IPC's support for UTS' ambitions during his speech, and argued that the event could be used as a chance to promote opportunities for all through sport.

"Dear youth, we will all continue to do our best to give you opportunities, support and chances to thrive," he said.

"After the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, we are stronger and more resilient than ever, and together we can and we will change the world.

"We can show the youth that we care about their futures and that we will act together to ensure that opportunity exists for everyone."

Introductory messages followed from Special Olympics chief executive Mary Davis, Global Association of International Sports Federations President Ivo Ferriani, UTS President Stephan Fox and Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee President Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud.

At the Opening Ceremony, IOC member Prince Feisal Al Hussein from Jordan, IOC Ethics Commission chair and ex-United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus discussed the events being staged as part of the World Virtual Youth Festival, which is scheduled to run until Saturday (November 27).

More than 100 organisations are taking part, and five competitions are featuring.