Winter YOG commences in Olympic capital of Lausanne; Singapore has sent three athletes

(From left) Singapore's ice hockey player Matthew Hamnett, Slovakia's ski mountaineer Matus Cernek, Slovenia's alpine skier Martin Krizaj at the opening ceremony of the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, on Jan 9, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

LAUSANNE (XINHUA) - With a motto of "Start now", the third Winter Youth Olympic Games kicked off in festive mood on Thursday (Jan 9) in the south-western Swiss city of Lausanne, the Olympic capital where the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and dozens of international sport organisations are based.

The Games will run through to Jan 22. A total of 1,872 athletes are involved in the 14-day competition featuring 81 events across eight sports. This will be the first time Singapore has sent athletes to the Winter YOG.

The three athletes are national youth ice hockey player Matthew Hamnett, who is competing in the ice hockey mixed team tournament, and short-track speed skaters Alyssa Pok and Trevor Tan.

The opening ceremony held in the Lausanne Vaudoise Arena, host of ice hockey competitions during the Games, laid out a story of an athlete's growth, allowing audiences to follow the Olympic spirit on a fantastic journey. Athletes competing in St Mortiz also joined the ceremony through a live broadcast.

In his speech, the IOC president Thomas Bach sent a message of "welcome home" to young participators.

"For more than one hundred years, Lausanne has been the home of the IOC," said the 66-year-old German. "Here you are in the heart of the Olympic Movement. Therefore, the experience of these Winter Youth Olympic Games will be a very special one.

"This is your time. This is your moment. Enjoy the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020," he added, before inviting one athlete from each of the five continents to join him on stage for a selfie.

Virginie Faivre, president of Lausanne 2020, rated the Games "for the youth, by the youth and with the youth".

"It's your moment to create memories, make friends for a lifetime and make history," the former Swiss freestyle skier told young athletes.

President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach addresses the audience in the Lausanne Vaudoise Arena at the Opening Ceremony. PHOTO: REUTERS

Simonetta Sommaruga, president of the Swiss Confederation, declared the opening of the Games.

Following its four-month journey across Switzerland, the Olympic flame was passed on to Gina Zehnder. The 14-year-old figure skater ignited the cauldron inside the venue.

As the Lausanne 2020 motto of "Start now" put it, many future Olympians may find their start of career in the Olympic capital.

"Now it's the time for you to start with your Games. So, start now," said Faivre.

Gina Zehnder, the youngest representative of the Swiss Team, lights the Olympic cauldron with the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony of the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games. PHOTO: AFP

With cultural exchanges and many learning and sharing activities, it can also serve as the start of new friendships, new ambitions and Olympic passion.

China dispatched 53 athletes to attend 57 events at Lausanne 2020, more than doubling its representation at the previous two editions, taking the Games as a testing ground for its plan of full participation in 109 events at the Winter Olympic Games on home soil two years away.

The Lausanne 2020 had eight competition sites, with Nordic combined, ski jumping and biathlon held in Les Tuffes in neighbouring France, making it the first bi-national Winter Youth Olympics in history.

Team members arrive in the Lausanne Vaudoise Arena at the Opening Ceremony. PHOTO: REUTERS

Initiated back in 2007, the Youth Olympic Games is an international multi-sport event aiming at encouraging young people around the world to practice sport and raise awareness of Olympism.

The inaugural Youth Olympic Games was held in Singapore in 2010 while the first winter version was held in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012. Norway's Lillehammer hosted the second edition of Winter Youth Olympic Games four years ago.

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