Lillehammer (Norway): With a story about the spark of enthusiasm as a symbol for inspiration, passion and creativity, Norway kicked off the opening ceremony of the second Winter Youth Olympic Games in its central city here.
About 15,000 spectators braved bone-chilling cold in the evening to participate in the ceremony at the Lysgardsbakkene Ski Jumping Arena on Friday, the same venue that hosted the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer in 1994, reports Xinhua.
The celebration centred around the journey of a boy who dreams of becoming the best athlete in the world and trains hard to achieve his goals.
And then, just as he loses his spark and simply gives up, he witnesses the Olympic Flame being carried by his hero Marit Bjorgen, Norwegian cross-country skier and six times Olympic champion, into the stadium -- an encounter that re-ignites his passion and joy in doing what he loves.
Bjorgen passed on the flame to 12-year-old Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway, who lit the same cauldron exactly 22 years after her father Crown Prince Haakon did the same thing at the opening ceremony of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach urged the young athletes to enjoy competition, friendship and love for the sport during the ten-day events.
"These Games will be about your love for sport. They will also be about learning and sharing and about making new friends," the IOC chief said in his speech at the opening ceremony.
"This is what the Youth Olympic Games are all about: bringing young athletes together from all around the world to enjoy competition and friendship," Bach said. "We are coming together to celebrate the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect."
A total of 1100 young athletes from the age of 14 to 18 from about 70 Olympic Committees will compete in 70 medal events during the Games from Feb. 12 to 21 in Norwegian cities of Lillehammer, Hamar, Gjovik, Oyer and Oslo.
Cultural exchange, learning and sharing are also important parts of the Youth Olympic Games as the young athletes will be engaged in many cultural and educational programmes to help them foster the Olympic values.
The Youth Olympic Games was established on April 25, 2007 on the initiative of the former IOC President Jacques Rogge. The vision of the Games is to encourage young people around the world to practice sport, raise awareness of Olympism and encourage them to adopt the values of Olympism and disseminate the message of the Olympic Movement around them.
The first summer version of the Youth Olympic Games was held in Singapore in 2010 while the first winter version was held in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012. China's eastern city of Nanjing hosted the second Summer Youth Olympic Games in 2014. (IANS)