Finland's President Sauli Niinistö is the patron for the Vuokatti 2022 Winter EYOF ©Getty Images

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, patron of the Vuokatti 2022 Winter European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF), officially opened the multi-sport event here at the Opening Ceremony.

Niinistö has served as Finland's head of state since 2012, and delivered a virtual message at the Ceremony.

Vuokatti in the Kainuu region of the country is staging the Winter EYOF for the second time, although it was known as the European Youth Olympic Days on the last occasion in 2001.

This year, ice hockey events are also being staged in Kajaani, while Lahti in southern Finland is the host for ski jumping and Nordic combined.

Athletes based in Lahti for the Festival also joined the Opening Ceremony via video link after the Parade of Nations, involving the 44 countries taking part.

After a speech from European Olympic Committees President Spyros Capralos, it was then time for Niinistö to declare the Winter EYOF open.

"Welcome to the Vuokatti 2022 European Youth Olympic Festival," he addressed those present.

"After a long wait, over 2,000 participants from all over Europe have gathered here.

"None of you would be here without hard work and dedication.

"You have every reason to be proud of yourselves.

"I hope you remember to enjoy the occasion.

"Sport is not only about winning, it is about striving to do your best, achieving your goals, and building friendships.

"I wish you the best of luck and I now declare the Vuokatti 2022 European Youth Olympic Festival open."

Following Niinistö's remarks, athlete, referee and coach representatives all took the EYOF Oath, before cross-country skier Vilma Nissinen lit the Cauldron containing the Flame of Peace.

The Winter EYOF is due to run until Friday (March 25), with nearly 1,000 athletes taking part across nine sports.

Following the addition of girls' ice hockey and Nordic combined to the programme, this year's edition of the Festival is set to achieve gender equality for the first time based on the number of participants.

Finnish Olympic Committee chief executive and secretary general Mikko Salonen yesterday declared it "important for Finland to host big events", with this edition of the Winter EYOF building on the Helsinki 1952 Olympics, the European Youth Olympic Days in Vuokatti in 2001 and the summer edition of the EYOF in Tampere in 2009.