A spectacular and heart-warming opening ceremony marked the official start to the second Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing. Over 60,000 spectators gave an enthusiastic reception for the breath-taking show that was held at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.
The 90-minute opening ceremony was designed by Chen Weiya and his creative team, the famous Chinese choreographer having already played a major role in the successful opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.
The festivities began in Nanjing with a dragon dance which was the starting point for a colourful and acrobatic musical programme that was then followed by the parade of nations and the competing athletes. Speeches were then given by Li Xueyong, President of the Organising Committee (NYOGOC) and Thomas Bach, President of the IOC, before Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China, declared the Games officially open, marking the beginning of what is set to be a joyous celebration of sport at youth level.
As the Olympic hymn rang out, the Olympic flag was then raised in the stadium, to the approval of the numerous guests of honour which included United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The Olympic oath was then pronounced by one representative each of the athletes, the officials and the coaches.
The theme of these Youth Olympics, namely "Light up the future", was symbolised in the backdrop of the opening ceremony which featured various astronomical instruments such as an armillary sphere (or spherical astrolabe) and a telescope. Tens of thousands of performers then treated the audience to a fascinating blend of music, dance and acrobatics which certainly created a buzz around the stadium. The high-point of the ceremony saw acrobats seemingly float through the air, suspended on steel cables.
The Olympic Torch had been lit in Athens back in April before setting off for China on a virtual relay around the world. A specially designed interactive mobile application enabled fans from all four corners of the Earth to take part in the relay until the torch arrived in China in early August. It then began its actual tour around various regions of the host country before reaching Nanjing.
Star Chinese diver Chen Ruolin, who won no fewer than four gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2012 games in London, carried the torch (also known as the "Gate of happiness") on the final leg before using to light the Olympic flame which will burn throughout the Games. An enormous firework display then provided a fittingly spectacular end to the opening ceremony.
Various venues will host 3,800 young athletes representing 204 nations between now and the end of the Games on 28 August, with Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals up for grabs in 28 different sporting disciplines. There will also be a whole host of cultural and educational activities which will enable people to sample the Olympic atmosphere and take part in a genuine intercultural experience.
"Share the Games. Share our dreams." is the official slogan of these 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games, and both Nanjing as a city and the various young people from around the world representing their countries have already demonstrated that they are certainly looking to the future.