IOC chief Rogge welcomes new tradition as inaugural Winter Youth Olympics begin
The inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games got underway on Friday with an opening ceremony featuring classic and modern dance, along with video flashbacks to 1964 and 1976 when Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympics.
'It is altogether fitting that this new Olympic tradition will begin in Innsbruck,' International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said.
'These Games will enhance a great legacy that includes Innsbruck's role as host of the 1964 and 1976 Olympic Winter Games.'
Let the games begin: Fireworks illuminate the opening ceremony of the first Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Innsbruck
The Youth Olympic cauldron at the Bergisel ski jumping stadium was lit by Paul Gerstgraser, who will represent Austria in the nordic combined event.
The 1964 and 1976 cauldrons were lit by the respective Olympic downhill champions, Egon Zimmermann and Franz Klammer, while the Olympic flag was carried into the stadium by a series of former Olympic champions from Austria, including ski jumpers Toni Innauer and Karl Schnabl.
Flag bearer: Team GB's Katie Summerhayes at the Bergisel Stadium
The games continue until Jan. 22 with 1,059 athletes aged 15-18 from 70 countries competing in 63 medal competitions. Some sports are new to the Olympics, others are known sports in a new format with teams of mixed genders and nationalities competing, underlining the event's values of respect and friendship.
'To the athletes, I say, these Games exist for you,' Rogge said.
'You have come here… not just to compete against each other, but also to learn from each other. This evening marks your entry into the Olympic world.'
The IOC president added that participating in the games is not just an honor but 'a great responsibility' as well.
'As the next generation of sports men and women, you are now the role models that represent our hopes for the future,' Rogge said.
Light show: Over 20,000 people attended the stunning opening ceremony in Austria
'You have a chance to be true champions, not only by winning medals, but by conducting yourself like Olympians.'
'Strive for excellence, but compete with friendship and respect for your opponents. Reject doping and other shortcuts that cheat yourself as well as others.'
Let the Games begin: IOC president Jaques Rogge delivers his speech before declaring the Youth Olympic Games open in Innsbruck
Among the 20,000 visitors attending the ceremony were Austrian President Heinz Fischer; coordination commission chairman for the Winter Youth Olympic Games and president of the International ski federation, Gian-Franco Kasper; and Olympic figure skating champion and 'YOG ambassador' Kim Yu-na.
SCHEFFAU – SPORTSMAIL TRAVEL SPECIAL
The legacy of the great Winter Games in
Innsburck in 1964 and 1976 stretches further afield in Austria.
Sportsmail's Matt Lawless (right) paid a flying visit to the nearby village of
Scheffau last week to introduce his four-year-old son Freddie to skiing.
Here's how their trip unfolded…
I remember taking up skiing on a school holiday as a teenager which had
then left me wondering why it had taken so long to discover such a
Since that trip to Canada in 2000 I've been fortunate to travel on
numerous adventures to different resorts on the Continent, namely in
Italy and France. But never to Austria. Until now.
All smiles: Sportsmail's Matt Lawless (L) pictured with his son Freddie (C) and one of the locals in Scheffau
Something that always struck me on those visits was the masses of
children speeding down the slopes, some as young as two or three or
however early enough their enthusiastic parents could place two great
big planks at the bottom of their feet.
I actually found it somewhat inspiring and vowed that, when I became a
parent, I too would introduce my flesh and blood to life on the lifts,
as it were, at a tender age.
And so I did and off to Innsbruck my son and I went. With the inaugural
Winter Youth Games taking place the snow-engulfed area of Austria is
gripped with fever. There could not have been a more appropriate time
for Freddie to make his debut.
The town is painted with Olympic-themed posters and the locals are uber
excited at the return of such a prestigious event with many remembering
the great Games they hosted in 1964 and 1976.
Typically, four-year-old Freddie did not quite embrace this special
atmosphere until he was handed a bear of the official mascot Yogll (or
Jacob as he would be known on these shores). From there, his love-affair
with winter sports seemingly began.
We headed down some 40 minutes outside of Innsbruck towards the
incredibly picturesque family-station of Scheffau to stay at the Land
Alpin, a fine four-star hotel planted in glorious views of the
spectacularly snow-covered foothills of the vast Wilder Kaiser
Just a short three-minute bus ride and five-minute gondola climb away, I
enrolled Freddie at the KinderKaiserland area where he took his first
steps on skis with the expert tutelage of a team of expert instructors.
After two short runs down the nursery slopes he'd demonstrated he was
more than capable of perfecting the 'pizza' and 'chips' routine – or as
those common to the sport would know as a snow plough for stopping.
Having fun: Freddie proudly stands by snowman he made with two other kids
The ski school offers tuition for children from the age of two in
special classes which take place before lunchtime for 45 minutes – just
enough for their little legs to get a taste of the skiing fun before
being looked after by qualified supervisors in a Kids Club centre.
As he enjoyed his starting experience, I was able explore the huge Ski
Welt circuit – Austria's largest, fully integrated, ski area with a vast
279kms cross-section of runs. The mountain bowl above Scheffau provides
some of the best snow conditions in the area so perfect to seduce you
into a rest of aprs-ski.
Scheffau is a sleepy resort in comparison to neighbouring village of
Soll where many Brits flock during the winter season for its vast array
of aprs-ski friendly bars and inns. But it's ideal for a visit with
youngsters where there are a host of activities aside from the skiing to
keep them entertained.
After a challenging day on the slopes, where blizzard conditions were
fiercely brutal last Tuesday with high winds sweeping snowboarders slightly off-track, we embarked on an
enchanting candlelit evening walk through the forest to find a welcoming
traditional family-run local restaurant, where we enjoyed a feat of
meat cooked on a fondue.
Stunning views: Hotel Land Alpin where Matt stayed in Scheffau
The evening before, on the Monday, we were gleefully whisked around the
charming town of Ellmau in a horse-drawn sleigh. Had it been two weeks
or so earlier, it would have felt that all of our Christmases had come
at once as we shared breath-taking views of the village.
Among some of
the interesting sights were cars and rooftops sheeted completely in
Of course, it had been well documented on the news how severe Austria
had been succumbed to the white powder. I'd wondered whether we'd be
able to return home. But then I was comforted by the spirit of the locals
was as warming as a hearty bowl of Goulash soup. It made me want to
No doubt we'll return one day and hopefully the current Winter Youth
Olympics will inspire a new generation of Olympians.
Perhaps, even my
For more information on skiing holiday's to Scheffau visit: www.crystalski.co.uk
EasyJet flys from London Gatwick to Innsbruck.