Flame On in Lausanne
by Adam Steiss|09 JAN 2020
The athlete chosen to light the Youth Olympic torch was 14-year-old figure skater Gina Zehnder, the youngest athlete competing at the Games.
photo: Vedran Galijas
The 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games officially opened last night in Lausanne, Switzerland with the lighting of the Olympic Flame following a ceremony in Vaudoise Arena.

With the YOG coming to Lausanne the Olympic capital, the ceremony had a Swiss feel, with chalets, Alpenhorns, and even a floating gondola making appearances during the ceremony. 14-year-old Gina Zehnder – a Swiss figure skater and the youngest athlete competing at the Games – had the honour of lighting the Olympic Flame.

“This is your time. This is your moment. Enjoy these Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020!” said IOC President Thomas Bach in his welcome address to the athletes.

A total of 1,872 athletes will take part in the 2020 YOG this year, approximately 40% more than in the last edition held in 2016 in Lillehammer, Norway. These numbers are possible thanks to the IOC’s 2-stage YOG initiative, which splits up the Games into two phases featuring different event disciplines.
Vaudoise Arena will host all the Youth Olympic ice hockey events. 
photo: Chloe Knott / OIS
For ice hockey, this means that the Games kick off with a 3-on-3 cross-ice men’s and women’s tournament, followed by a six-team men’s and women’s traditional tournament beginning on 17 January.

The most unique aspect of the 3-on-3 tournaments is the team rosters, comprised of players from mixed countries. This has given young players from many more IIHF members the chance to take part in Olympic competition.

The parade of athletes in Vaudoise Arena included represented 79 National Olympic committees from around the world. Ten ice hockey players were selected to be flagbearers for their respective countries. Among the 12 National Olympic Committees participating for the first time in the Winter Youth Olympics, there were flag bearers from Hong Kong, Qatar, Singapore, Thailand, and Turkmenistan.

2020 Youth Olympic Ice Hockey Flag Bearers:
Danil Karpovich-Belarus
Nino Tomov-Bulgaria
Andrea Trnkova-Czech Republic
Emilia Kyrkko-Finland
Yau Yam-Hong Kong, China
Lina Meijer-Luxembourg
Kimberly Collard-Netherlands
Thawab Al-Subaey-Qatar
Matthew Hamnett-Singapore
Novruz Bayhanov-Turkmenistan
Ice Hockey 3-on-3 athletes Emilia Kyrkko (FIN), Kimberly Collard (NED), Thawab Al-Subaey (QAT), and Novruz Bayhanov (TKM), were selected as flagbearers for their respective countries. 
photo: Vedran Galijas

The four flagbearers for the Olympic flag also included two hockey players: Sochi 2014 women’s ice hockey MVP and former Swiss star goalie Florence Schelling and 15-year-old Loris Uberti, who will represent Switzerland in net at the men’s 3x3 tournament starting on Friday, and could suit up for his country in the men’s ice hockey tournament starting next week. Swiss linesman Eric Catanio took the official’s Olympic oath.

The opening ceremony provided a showcase of the different phases of an athlete’s growth, incorporating past, present, and future athletes together with young performers from circus, music, and performance schools from Lausanne. The ceremony also showcased the diversity and inclusiveness of the 2020 YOG, which not only is bringing in the most athletes ever but is also the first gender-neutral Games, with a 50-50 split between male and female athletes.

The ceremony took place in Vaudoise Arena, the site of all four ice hockey events that will take place at the YOG over the next 13 days. The arena will also host Group B of the 2020 IIFH Ice Hockey World Championship in May.