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Let The Games Begin

By Brittany Davis | Aug. 16, 2014, 12:29 p.m. (ET)

An aerial view of the Nanjing Sports Center is seen at the Opening Ceremony of the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games on Aug. 16, 2014 in Nanjing, China.

NANJING, China -- The Olympic spirit is alive in Nanjing, China.

The historical city was brimming with energy and youthful vitality as approximately 3,800 athletes from around the world gathered in Nanjing for the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, held Aug. 16 at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Center.

Proudly representing the U.S. delegation were 92 athletes, led by Kendall Yount, who was selected to represent Team USA as flag bearer.

“It was such an amazing feeling to represent Team USA and walk into the Opening Ceremony with all the other nations in the Parade of Flags,” said Yount. “As soon as I saw our country’s flag flash across the screen and heard the crowd, I thought, ‘This is it. The Games are finally here,’ and everything started to feel very real. All my teammates have been so supportive, and I know we’re all excited to compete.”

"On behalf of the entire U.S. delegation, I'd like to congratulate Kendall on this tremendous honor," said Charlie Paddock, chef de mission for Team USA. “Kendall’s commitment to excellence is evident in her achievements both on and off the field of play, and we were thrilled to watch her represent Team USA.”

IOC President Thomas Bach poses for a selfie with Youth Olympic Games athletes at the Opening Ceremony of the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games on Aug. 16, 2014 in Nanjing, China.

Following the Parade of Flags, the athletes were welcomed by Li Xuedong, president of the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games Organizing Committee, and Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, who challenged the athletes to capture the moment by setting a record for the most #YOGselfies.

“With the hashtag, you are sending a strong message around the world,” said Bach. “You are showing your passion for sport and for fair competition. You are demonstrating that Olympic sport reaches beyond competition. It’s about sharing, learning and making friends across our globe.”

And with the #YOGselfie, signifying the universal gesture of friendship, the ceremony shifted back to the Nanjing 2014 motto, “Share the Games. Share our Dreams.” 

Consisting of three chapters centered around pursuing, building and realizing the dream, the Opening Ceremony showcased China’s significant contributions to astronomy, technology, education and trade, set against the backdrop of a culture marked by world-renowned efficacy and hospitality.

“It made me feel honored to be an athlete at these Games, that they put this celebration together just for us,” said Kat Ramage, U.S. women’s rugby player. “When I was little I never thought this would happen. I’ve always dreamed of being a Youth Olympian and now it has come true.”

As Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, declared the Games officially open, fireworks ignited the sky – a nod to the radiance of youth and the promise of a brighter future as the athletes turned their focus to experiencing the joy of sport on a global stage.

“I’ve never been part of an atmosphere with so much energy before,” said judoka Adonis Diaz, who is among the first U.S. athletes to begin competition Sunday (Aug. 17). “Everyone was exploding with energy, and as I watched the lighting of the cauldron I immediately thought of competing. I am so pumped for tomorrow.”