Florence Bell, the 15 years old Sutton Coldfield resident is Ireland’s only competitor in the 2012 Youth Olympic Games which opened in Innsbruck on Friday 13th.
The Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games officially got under way with an Opening Ceremony at the Bergisel stadium, the iconic Olympic venue in the heart of Austria’s Tyrolean capital, Innsbruck.
With the snow-capped mountains providing a breathtaking backdrop, over 1,000 athletes aged 15 to 18 marched in the athletes’ parade, which was followed by speeches by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, and the Chairman of the Innsbruck 2012 Organising Committee, Richard Rubatscher.
Reflecting the Olympic heritage of Innsbruck, which staged the 1964 and 1976 Olympic Winter Games, the newly created Youth Olympic cauldron and the two existing cauldrons from the previous Games were set ablaze. The Ceremony fused Tyrolean tradition and modern youth culture, with entertainment including freestyle skiers and snowboarders jumping overhead and a paring of ancient Tyrolean dances with a hip hop crew. The stage and costumes were designed by young students from local colleges.
Addressing the crowd in the stadium, President Rogge said: “For the first time, young people from around the world have come together for the Winter Youth Olympic Games, a global celebration of sport and Olympic values.”
“You have come here from 70 countries not just to compete against each other, but also to learn from each other. Some of the friendships formed over the next nine days will last a lifetime, and so will the memories”, he added, reminding the audience that the Winter Youth Olympic Games, which will run from 13 to 22 January and feature a unique Culture and Education Programme, have been created and designed just for young athletes.
Those attending the Opening Ceremony included Austrian President Heinz Fischer, Coordination Commission Chairman for the Winter Youth Olympic Games Gian-Franco Kasper, and Olympic champion and Youth Olympic Games Ambassador Yuna Kim.
In the next few days, Innsbruck 2012 will feature some of the world’s most talented young athletes taking part in the seven sports currently on the winter Olympic programme, including three new events: women’s ski jumping, ski halfpipe and snowboard slopestyle.
After their success at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, mixed-gender and mixed-country events will also form part of the programme, with a mixed Alpine skiing parallel team event and mixed-country short track skating team relay. In addition, mixed-sport events, such as cross-country biathlon, will be introduced for the first time.
These mixed events aim to strengthen bonds between the athletes and foster better understanding of each other’s cultures and backgrounds, a fundamental vision of the Youth Olympic Games.
With sport as a foundation, the Youth Olympic Games will give the young athletes their first taste of the Olympic experience and provide valuable lessons which they can leverage in their future careers, be it in sport or in other vocations.
The culmination of the Opening Ceremony saw a dazzling fireworks display light up the clear Alpine night, ensuring a celebration to remember for all who attended.
Kasperi KAPANEN (FIN), who is representing his country in Ice Hockey, was thrilled with the ceremony.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “You’re probably not going to be in a situation like this many times in your life, but right now it’s truly unbelievable.”
Prior to Friday’s opening ceremony President Rogge talked of the possibility of a Great Britain bid to hold the YOG six years from now.
“You have a whole series of events, with the Commonwealth Games, the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and the athletics world championships in London in 2017. We’d welcome a bid for 2018.”, he said.
SportsNewsIreland will bring you news from Innsbruck during the Games. Florence is maintaining an Olympic Diary and here she tells of the atmosphere in Innsbruck and her pride in carrying the Irish flag during the opening ceremony:
“Today was the Opening Ceremony and it was really good. It was held in the same place that the two previous Innsbruck Olympics have been and, obviously, I carried the flag for Ireland which I felt very proud to do. I already knew some of the other flag-carriers and made friends with some of the others.
When I looked at the thousands of people in the crowd I was completely amazed; I have never been in a situation like that in my life before. I felt really sorry for Christina Auger, the Austrian skier who said the Olympic Oath on behalf of all the athletes because she forgot her words. She must have felt terrible but the crowd all cheered her on.
Seeing the Olympic cauldrons lit was very exciting. There were 3 of them; two from the 1964 and 1976 Games and a new one for the Youth Olympics. There was a huge roar from the crowd when Franz Klammer lit the second cauldron. The whole ceremony finished with a massive fireworks display”.
Florence finished a very creditable 26th (out of 78) in the famous Topolino event ; she also won the English slalom Championship and took silver in the Super G in Bormio behind Australia’s Rebecca Brown . In March she received a Sportsaid award
(sponsored by Eversheds) – previous recipients of Sportsaid awards include Olympic Gold medallists Sir Chris Hoy and Rebecca Adlington.
Great to see another young skier following in the footsteps of Dalkey’s Kirsten McGarry who represented Ireland in the Winter Olympics of 2006 and 2010.
SportsNewsIreland wishes all the very best of luck to Florence, her family and coach on this very special occasion.