Innsbruck – In the shadow of the Austrian Alps, the Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games officially began Friday night with the opening ceremony.
A packed crowd of around 15,000 people was perched along the grandstands of Bergisel Stadium, watching as over 1,000 athletes filed into the amphitheatre-style arena and the Olympic cauldrons were lit. The stadium, which was the site of the beginning of the 1964 and 1976 Olympic Games, became the first-ever venue to stage three Olympic ceremonies.
The Innsbruck Games' motto of 'Be Part of It!', coupled with the fresh, youthful, and energetic approach that has characterized these unique Games, was the central theme of the presentations. The ceremony’s various artistic segments combined this theme with the historical nature of the venue and Innsbruck’s longtime association with the Olympics.
Two youths, out of several hundred volunteer actors used in the ceremony, demonstrated the athletes’ use of social media by discussing the history off the Games in Innsbruck in an online communication presentation, interspersed with dance numbers and musical performances that traced the events and music that characterized Innsbruck’s earlier Olympic years.
A highlight of the show was a unique mix of Tyrolean traditional folk dancing coupled with modern, youthful break dancing that had the crowd cheering and dancing along. The number of dance performances certainly helped to keep everybody warm, as temperatures dipped below freezing under a light snowfall.
"Innsbruck, you've done it again,” said IOC President Jacques Rogge during his speech at the ceremony. He thanked all of the volunteers and the organizing committee for their efforts, and reminded the athletes of their newfound responsibilities that go with the honour of being called Olympians.
The Olympic Flame arrived into the stadium, carried down the ski jump by 1980 Men's Downhill Olympic Champion Leonhard Stock (AUT).
All three of the stadium's Olympic cauldrons, representing the past two Games and this year’s inaugural Youth Olympics, were then lit.
The 1964 cauldron was lit by Egon Zimmerman (AUT), the Men's Downhill Olympic Champion from those Games. The second, from the Innsbruck 1976 Winter Olympic Games, was lit by Franz Klammer, who won the gold that year in Men's Downhill. The final cauldron was lit by 16-year-old Paul Gerstgraser (AUT), who is representing Austria in Nordic Combined at Innsbruck 2012.
The ceremony was capped by a beautiful fireworks display as the Youth Olympics Games, carrying on Innsbruck’s Olympic tradition to a new generation, officially began.
to see more pictures from last night's ceremony.