Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn declared the 2022 UTS World Youth Festival Open ©UTS

Thailand's Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn thanked "friends" from Saudi Arabia and "the all-inclusive Olympic Movement" as he opened the 2022 United Through Sports (UTS) World Youth Festival here.

In what was a rain-delayed Opening Ceremony, Ratchakitprakarn extended a warm welcome to Prince Tengku Amir Shah of Malaysia, Princess Dilayl Nahar Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, embassy and consulate officials, dignitaries from the United Nations and UTS President Stephan Fox.

"Welcome to the UTS World Youth Festival 2022 from Thailand to the world," started Ratchakitprakarn.

"I would like to say thank you to the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and distinguished President Thomas Bach, the International Paralympics Committee and President Andrew Parsons, the Special Olympics President Timothy Shriver, SportAccord President Ivo Ferriani, for granting patronage  to this event.

"I heart fully would like to welcome the IOC representative Mrs Samira Asgabi, the President of Special Olympics of Asia Pacific Mr Dipak Natali.

"I certainly would like to thank all the Olympic cities Gangwon, Paris, Milano Cortina, Dakar, Los Angeles, Brisbane for supporting this event and the friendship we have with all these countries and certainly the city of Bangkok."

The Opening Ceremony also saw Fox thank the Thailand Government for its support.

A live muaythai performance was held and the Siam Sinfonietta Youth Orchestra treated everyone to their music.

A touching moment saw young athletes do a march to symbolise UTS values such as inclusivity, equality and access to sport.

UTS President Stephan Fox addressed the gathering during the morning session ©UTS
UTS President Stephan Fox addressed the gathering during the morning session ©UTS

Finally, a flag handover was held with representatives from Saudi Arabia, last year's hosts, passing the UTS flag to Ratchakitprakarn.

"I would like to thank from the bottom of our hearts to our friends from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and your Royal Highness Princess Dilayl Nahar Al Saud, as-salamu alaykum," Ratchakitprakarn said.

"Please take our wishes back to his Royal Highness the Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud and the continued friendship between our countries and it seems like we have many upcoming events which we share.

"Further, I would like to welcome all the National Federations and thank you for your support, and I must thank the SAT [Sports Authority of Thailand] and NSDF [National Sports Development Fund] for ensuring the success of this event.

"We welcome you! 

"You have come here and over 2,000 will be part of this event here at this beautiful university grounds and hundred thousands will join on the virtual platform.

"You all will inspire the world with your unique abilities, and we will be here to cheer you on, to support you, to listen to you.

"You are the future and we are so proud of you.

"I hope that you all will continue to stand together for a better world and we hope that you will return with many newly made friends and beautiful memories from the Kingdom of Thailand.

"Now it is time, let’s open together the 2022 UTS Festival from Bangkok to the world!"

Mascot Alex the Axolotl was one of the star attractions of the day ©UTS
Mascot Alex the Axolotl was one of the star attractions of the day ©UTS

The morning session saw multiple presentations from international organisations with inclusivity being the core topic.

Before that, IOC President Bach and IPC President Parsons along with other sports administrators and officials offered their support for UTS.

Speeches from Paris 2024, Milan Cortina 2026 and Los Angeles 2028 called for unity and inclusivity as they shared similar sentiments towards the UTS World Youth Festival.

Paralympians Ezra Frech of the United States and Husnah Kukundakwe of Uganda were among the many athletes who shared inspiring stories and the challenges they faced in sport.

The 2022 UTS World Youth Festival is set to conclude on Saturday (November 19).

The second day of the event begins with Frech leading a workshop along with muaythai world champion Janice Lyn from Canada.