But whoever came to the arena to watch the female and male hockey stars of tomorrow didn’t have to regret it. They saw entertaining hockey and a great atmosphere with a younger-than-usual audience also in the stands and arena entertainment that pleased the teenagers and adults alike.
For many games the announcement in the third period was “guichet fermé”, meaning all tickets to guarantee a seat were gone. Those almost 9,000 available tickets per game were given away for free as everybody could register. Many made use of it including many schools from Lausanne and the canton of Vaud.
Of course the boys and girls from Switzerland were the fan favourite on the ice. Sometimes they were even cheered on by school kids during practices or when doing their team photo.
“It was an unbelievable atmosphere. Everybody is friendly. You don’t find it anywhere else. The Youth Olympics are special. I like to have it in Switzerland, and everybody speaks French, that’s likable,” said goaltender Margaux Favre.
“The fans were unbelievable. It’s unusual to come to the ice and get that much applause and have all the entertainment during the stoppage. When we play with the club we have 100, 150 spectators, here it was thousands. It made me a bit nervous but I told myself it’s just a game like any other and tried not to focus on the attendance. The fans are there to enjoy the Youth Olympics, not to judge anybody.”
“It’s very cool. We’re home in Switzerland and most fans are Swiss. It motivates us extremely when you have so many fans behind you who cheer on you. It’s a great feeling,” said her teammate Lenni Kozuh. “It gives you a thrust of motivation when you enter the ice and have all these people behind you and you know they don’t judge you, they just cheer on you no matter what happens. It gives you a boost of energy.”
Unfortunately for the local fans the Swiss U16 women’s national team missed out on winning a medal again. They started with a shootout win against the Czech Republic but then lost to surprise champion Japan and to Slovakia, two nations the Swiss usually leave behind in women’s hockey.
“The atmosphere with all the fans is really great. They encourage us to do even more,” Jade Surdez said about playing the Youth Olympics in Lausanne.
The U16 men’s national team missed out on qualifying for the semi-finals after a tight loss to Finland and finished one place below in fifth place but the boys also played its games in a full and loud arena.
“I’ve never played in front of so many fans. It was really a good feeling especially that the stood by us until the end even though we were losing,” said Noah Greuter. “We were motivated enough but if you have so many fans cheering on us it gives us extra motivation.”
“It was a great ambiance. A big thank you to the fans. It was really cool to play in front of this attendance,” goaltender Alessio Beglieri said.
It was not the happy end for the two Swiss teams on home ice but the fans enjoyed the ice hockey stars of the future nevertheless and also filled the arena for many other games. Yesterday’s women’s gold medal game was sold out as will be the final between Russia and the United States later today.
In total 1,872 young athletes between the ages of 15 and 18 from 79 countries took part in 81 events in 8 sports and 16 disciplines at 8 competition venues in the cantons of Vaud. Also in the ice hockey events including the earlier mixed 3-on-3 tournaments the split between female and male players was 50-50.
In total more than 350,000 spectators came to the eight competition venues in Lausanne 2020, 640,000 including festivals.
Lausanne often calls itself the sport capital of the world hosting the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee and many international sport federations and the local organizer definitely lived up to the ambitions.
The Youth Olympics will end today but we can already look forward to more international ice hockey at the arena when Lausanne will host the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship together with Zurich in May.