Korea closes out an unforgettable Winter Youth Olympic Games. IOS / IOC

The excitement of the athletes, the musical performances and the presence of the snow as a guest at the party added an extra touch of joy to the  grand stage of the Gangwon 2024 Closing Ceremony at the Gangneung Open Square.

After 13 days of competing, dreaming and striving, the Gangwon 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games came to an end. The Closing Ceremony took place on Thursday 1 February. The event commemorated not only the athletes, who are the real protagonists, but also all those actors who are sometimes unseen and do not receive medals, but who are essential to such a grand celebration. The Republic of Korea is coming to the end of an unforgettable experience after having organised a Winter Youth Olympic Games that will be difficult to replicate. 

The Closing Ceremony was held in the open space next to the Gangneung Ice Hockey Centre. A light snowfall created a bucolic and spectacular atmosphere. Many of the 1,801 athletes who have competed over the past thirteen days were on display, along with some of the 1,984 volunteers who were praised for ensuring the success of the fourth Winter Youth Olympic Games. Korea was the perfect combination of all these elements, and the athletes were surrounded by a host of people and resources to ensure their safety and the perfect execution of all the necessary details.

The Closing Ceremony brought together athletes, volunteers and fans in Gangneung. 'X' IOC
The Closing Ceremony brought together athletes, volunteers and fans in Gangneung. 'X' IOC

The show featured Korean rapper Lee Young-ji who performed 'Fire', one of the most sung Gangwon songs in recent times, which had the crowd going wild. The K-dance group 1Million also performed and the local DJ played songs, dances and K-pop hits by K.hertz and the Gangneung Youth Choir also won the hearts of the audience. Together, they created an incomparable atmosphere as the flags of the 78 competing nations were paraded. 

IOC President Thomas Bach, a proud Olympic gold medallist, was among the crowd before taking to the stage to thank everyone involved. He encouraged everyone to "enjoy the party". A group of volunteers and mascot Moongcho threw snow to extinguish the digital flame. This symbolic act was applauded by the crowd as they watched and enjoyed a series of edited images capturing some of the best moments from the 13 days of competition.

The Koreans ended the Games with a very sweet taste in their mouths, winning two gold medals on the final day to take their tally to seven and finishing in the top five overall with a memorable performance, but it was Italy who really stunned everyone.

With 11 gold medals, the Italians more than doubled their tally from the previous three editions of the Winter Youth Olympic Games (five medals) as they prepare to showcase the spectacular talent of their athletes at the highest level in just two years' time at the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Milano-Cortina. With 30, the USA led in number of medals. 

30 different nations won medals, with Brazil, Thailand, Turkey and Tunisia among those making their first appearance on the podium at a Winter Olympic Games. Countries with other, more established sporting traditions will prove at Gangwon 2024 that they can also be among the best in winter sports. 

The legacy of Pyeongchang 2018, with competitions taking place in 12 different venues, seven of which had already been used for the 2018 Games, has been crucial to the coordination and perfect organisation of Gangwon 2024. A sporting, social and structural success that will make the first Winter Youth Olympic Games to be organised in Asia an unforgettable event. The next Youth Olympic Games will be Dakar 2026 in Senegal.