Utrecht (NED), 15th July – it was King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands who declared the XII summer EYOF open, at the Opening Ceremony in the Galgenwaard Stadium in Utrecht on Sunday evening, where the 2,300 top young athletes from 49 countries entered the stadium for the traditional athletes’ parade, with Greece entering first and the hosts, the Netherlands, last, and receiving a warm welcome from the sold-out Galgenwaard Stadium.
During the ceremony some brief speeches were given, with IOC President Jacques Rogge, founder of the EYOF, addressing the athletes and telling them this evening was their “entry into the Olympic world”.
Patrick Hickey, the President of the EOC, the association that launched the event back in 1991, warmly thanked the Dutch NOC for the way they splendidly organized the event, in particular saying how it was an honour to have the King there to declare it open.
Utrecht 2013 EYOF Chair Rinda den Besten said she hoped that all the participants would enjoy this week of sports and that they would remember it as the beginning of their sports career.
The ceremony featured all the Olympic traditions, with the lighting of the Olympic Flame by Max Geesink, grandson of Dutch judo legend Anton Geesink, and Leontien van Moorsel and Esther Vergeer carrying the torch into the stadium.
During the EYOF the young athletes will go for gold in nine Olympic sports, with the first medals to be won in track and field today.
But Utrecht, as is the tradition for EYOFs, will also be a special occasion for the participants to learn new traditions and make new friends from all the 49 European countries.
Today, at a ceremony at the Village, homage was paid to Jacques Rogge, the initiator of the event, in the presence of young athletes in representation of the 49 teams, when EOC President Patrick Hickey and Secretary General Raffaele Pagnozzi gave the IOC President a painting by Olga Volha Piashko, a painter who has won many prizes linked to the world of sport. The gift was intended to symbolise the values embodied in the EYOF, that the Festival has been teaching since it was created. Since the event started, a total of 33 summer and winter editions have been organised with highest professionalism by Guido de Bondt, Chair of the EOC EYOF Commission.
The Utrecht 2013 highlights will be on the EOC YouTube Channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/TheEOCCOE), with lots of videos for a firsthand experience of the event.