21 July 2019
The 15th edition of the Summer European Youth Olympic Festival is under way after a vibrant Opening Ceremony brought the weeklong multi-sport event for athletes aged 14-18 to life tonight at the Crystal Hall in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Among the honoured guests attending the Ceremony were Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, First Vice President Mehrban Aliyeva and European Olympic Committees (EOC) President Janez Kocijancic.
The introduction of the flag of Azerbaijan was followed by the parade of nations, which featured athletes from the 48 European National Olympic Committees competing at Baku 2019 and EOC Refugee Athlete Nazret Kobodom, a 16-year-old Eritrean runner currently seeking asylum in Israel who will compete in the Girls’ 3,000m.
In keeping with Olympic tradition, Team Azerbaijan entered the hall last and was greeted loudly by the sold-out crowd.
Welcome speeches were delivered by First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Chairman of the Organising Committee for Baku 2019 Yagub Eyyubov and EOC President Kocijancic.
"I cordially congratulate all the young people and the entire sporting community on the occasion of this celebration, and I wish the joy of victory to the young athletes and their particular competitiveness that will provide great interest for all the fans," Eyyubov said.
Addressing the approximately 2,700 athletes competing at the EYOF, Kocijancic said: "The European Youth Olympic Festival is known as a factory of future champions and Olympic medallists … It is also an opportunity to prove that the young generation of European athletes is growing together with the Olympic ideals, with the idea of peace, friendship and collaboration among all nations, and with the ideas of integrity, inclusivity, solidarity, honesty and fair play."
Azerbaijan President Aliyev then officially opened the European Youth Olympic Festival, before oaths on behalf of all the athletes, officials and coaches were delivered.
A highlight of the Opening Ceremony was the lighting of cauldron for these Games by Athens 2004 Olympic wrestling champion Farid Mansurov using the Flame of Peace, which was lit during a ceremony in Rome on 12 April. The cauldron will remain lit at the Crystal Hall until the Closing Ceremony on 27 July.
The proceedings were brought to a crescendo with a cultural and artistic performance involving approximately hundreds of local young people, including stage dancers, acrobats, gymnasts and practitioners of parkour and breaking.
The protagonists of the show were a boy and girl who learned about the road to success while being taken on a historical journey of Baku from ancient to modern times.
The moral of the story was that each of the athletes competing at Baku 2019 can achieve their own personal victories if they remain strong in body and spirit, keep the fire of dreams in their hearts, and strive boldly to overcome all obstacles.
It was an energetic and entertaining Opening Ceremony whose quick pace enabled the entire spectacle to fit inside a one-and-a-half-hour window.
Competition in tennis and wrestling began earlier in the day, with athletics, basketball, handball, swimming, and volleyball starting on Monday. Artistic gymnastics, cycling and judo round out the Baku 2019 sports programme later in the week.
You can follow the action live on the EOC Channel. For more information on the 15th Summer EYOF, visit the Baku 2019 website.
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