LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The Olympic capital of the world opened its arms to welcome athletes from around the globe as the Winter Youth Olympic Games kicked off Jan. 9 at Vaudoise Arena in Lausanne, Switzerland. Simultaneously with St. Moritz, the two cities each hosted an Opening Ceremony to celebrate the start of the third Winter Youth Olympic Games, which runs through Jan. 22.
To help kick off the opening ceremonies, Team USA was represented by flag bearers Lexie Madigan in Lausanne and Reannyn Weiler in St. Moritz for the iconic Parade of Nations.
The once-in-a-lifetime memories continued as the ceremonies went on, including for U.S. figure skater Audrey Shin, who snapped a selfie alongside four other athletes, with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach at the ceremony in Lausanne.
The performances throughout the ceremonies paid homage to the host country of Switzerland, featuring Swiss ski chalets and gondolas, along with a stunning performance of the national anthem on an ensemble of alphorns. First and foremost, however, the ceremonies celebrated the key reason for the event: the athletes themselves.
Throughout a series of seven scenes, the Opening Ceremony took the athletes and audience through a young dreamer’s journey to find himself, emphasizing the importance of determination in order to grow and excel. Stars from Switzerland participated throughout the seven scenes, including Swiss Olympic medalist Stéphane Lambiel, who skated alongside a young Swiss figure skater to represent the new generation of the world’s best athletes: the Youth Olympians.
As the evening continued, representatives from across the Games participated in the athletes’, judges’ and coaches’ oath. In the grand finale of the evening, the youngest member of the Swiss Youth Olympic Team completed the final leg of the Torch Relay, lighting the cauldron inside Vaudoise Arena to officially commence the Winter Youth Olympic Games.
The Youth Olympic Games are an elite multi-sport event for athletes ages 15-18 and are held every two years, just like the Olympic Games. The first summer edition was held in Singapore in 2010, followed by the first winter edition in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012. The last edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games were hosted in Lillehammer, Norway, in 2016.
Beyond the field of competition, the participants also have the opportunity to take part in educational and cultural programs that focus on the positive values of sport, Olympism and life skills.
Team USA is represented by 99 athletes from 24 states, who will compete in 81 sporting events, including with mixed-gender and mixed-country teams. To follow along as the Games continue, visit TeamUSA.org/Lausanne2020.