Words that convey pride and emotion. The pride of an unforgettable year, the joy of a shared experience that embraces the values of the country and projects them towards the most important sporting event. These are the sentiments interpreted from the thoughts of President Sergio Mattarella, which were collected by those who honour the movement and its challenges. The ceremony held at Quirinal Palace for the handing over of the Italian flag, in view of the impending Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games to take place in February and March, encapsulated a mood reflected in the visibly moved faces of all those involved, expressing all that is behind the successes of a record-breaking 2021 during which so many obstacles and difficulties were overcome. The Head of State presented the flag to Sofia Goggia and Giacomo Bertagnolli, the flag bearers who will lead the Azzurri teams in China. The institutional setting was coloured by the elegant informality that envelopes sport and the ideals that inspire it. Speeches that go straight to the heart and leave a lasting impression. CONI President, Giovanni Malagò, and IPC President, Luca Pancalli, in the presence of the Undersecretary for Sport, Valentina Vezzali, testified to the immense gratitude of the sector they represent to the country's highest institution, in a hall packed with athletes, coaches and managers.
The ceremony was opened with a message from President Malagò. “Thank you, President, for welcoming us once again today and for always showing your friendly and knowledgeable support for Italian sport. In these past seven years you have always been there for us, listened to us and supported us. On 23 June, I said that we would return to see the stars again, with a quotation relating to the memory of Dante in the year of the 700th anniversary of his death. And indeed on 23 September we brought back the flag with a record-breaking number of successes. As chance would have it, it is 23 December that marks this new, symbolically unique moment. The team prepared itself well despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. I would like to thank Fisi and Fisg, Presidents Roda and Gios, and the coaches: we are well placed to win medals in many disciplines. Sofia Goggia will be our flag bearer, a conscious choice because she won a gold medal, as did Arianna Fontana in PyeonghChang. Meanwhile, Michela Moioli will be the standard bearer at the closing ceremony which is particularly important this year given the handover of the flag from Beijing to Milan Cortina. It has been an incredible year: the numbers speak for themselves. Objectively speaking, it has been the best year ever, the likes of which may never be seen again. But this will be our aim, our challenge for the future. You have been our beacon, our guide, Mr President. I want to say thank you on behalf of these athletes. From our world”.
President Pancalli also said some words in tribute to the Head of State, celebrating the achievements of the Paralympic world. “The excitement of the Tokyo successes has not yet worn off. But this ceremony marks the beginning of a new challenge. We will rise to it with ambition and optimism. We are among the very best in the Paralympic movement and the absences imposed by the pandemic mean we must celebrate this event in a special way. However, this moment is unique, not least because of the way you are approaching your seventh year in office. It is a time when we have courageously pursued our challenges and you have always been there for us. We have learned to become empathetic, which has helped us win. In recent years, we have become a public body, amended the dictionary with the rightful addition of the word ‘Paralympic’, and achieved outstanding results. Today we are not just taking up a challenge, we are making a commitment to continue to believe in our cultural revolution. In the New Year, Paralympic athletes will also be eligible to join the military corps, another great achievement. I can assure you that we will continue to make progress, because our passion will never wane. We are also grateful for what you have done in defence of the country's institutions and our world”.
Undersecretary Vezzali extended the Government's greetings to the Olympic and Paralympic delegations and thanked the Head of State. “On behalf of the government, I express my gratitude for the support you have shown to Italian sport in recent years. The feelings of excitement from Tokyo are still fresh in our memories, but we are now casting our gaze in the direction of Beijing. The greatest gift is in the strength of these athletes who are a source of inspiration and an example to us all. I am convinced that the most important prize is inspiring young people, getting them involved in sport, particularly with a view to the Milano Cortina 2026 Games. The government is committed to promoting the practice of sport and triggering a true cultural revolution for sport by means of a renewed relationship with schools and sports facilities to which one billion euros of NRRP funds will be allocated. But nothing can ever be more effective than the smile of an athlete who, from the top of an Olympic or Paralympic podium, sees their sacrifices and dedication to sport rewarded. It is an important and exciting task. We will be at your side supporting you and cheering you on. Make us proud to be Italian all over again”.
The President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, addressed the entire movement, greeting the delegations present with the affection that has always made him the movement's number one supporter. "We have met with some of you on other occasions and also in the Milano Cortina presentation videos. In Beijing you will be surrounded by the affection of the Italians. It will be a fascinating adventure and I hope that you seize this extraordinary opportunity with both hands. You have many different goals, but the most important one is to confront new horizons and challenge your limitations. Congratulations and good luck. Outstanding sporting performance is a symbol of our country and is essential because it brings young people closer to sport, providing an arsenal of future champions. I would also like to mention the merits of Paralympic sport. In recent years it has grown rapidly thanks to the leaders of the movement who have contributed to its success. You truly represent the country, Olympians and Paralympians. The golden year of Italian sport, which will no doubt continue in the year that is about to begin, was a welcome expression of hope and optimism for Italy. You have disproved an unfounded stereotype, that of an undisciplined nation. We are a creative country whose inventiveness helped us overcome the difficulties posed by the pandemic. You have represented all of us in this. I will not tell you that we expect a lot of medals, rather, I hope that you will honour our flag and I am sure that you will. And you will have all of our support”.
Finally, the two standard bearers expressed their personal joy. Giacomo Bertagnolli: "I would like to thank the President. I am wearing the tricolour to represent our movement. This flag represents my colleagues. We will give our all to bring home the results, especially because we want to have the opportunity to tell our stories, which many people are unaware of”.
Sofia Goggia delivered a first-class speech, with a linguistic command that reflects her competitiveness. She moved quickly - as she does on the track - but this time straight into people's hearts. "President, I like to think that this role is not just about Olympic gold medals. I remember receiving the phone call after my injury just before the World Championships in Cortina. I was urged to look beyond, to dig deep within to find the strength to overcome my obstacles. When I received the phone call from President Malagò, I was proud but also a little nervous. Being a flag-bearer is not just about waving the tricolour. It's about ensuring that ethics and sporting values are respected. I’m thrilled, and I promise that we will give our all and honour the role I so proudly hold”.
At the event held today at Quirinal Palace in view of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the Italian athletes in attendance wore EA7 Emporio Armani signed uniforms. EA7 Emporio Armani, official outfitter of the Olympic Games, will sign the modular wardrobes for leisure and formal occasions of the Italian Olympic and Paralympic teams. The kit provided to each athlete is a modular wardrobe of specially created garments and accessories. Among these is the ski suit with jacket in the new royal blue colour, featuring the iconic 'Italia' gold lettering on the back with an iridescent effect that reveals the three colours of the Italian flag.
Below is the list of Olympic athletes who have confirmed their attendance: Martina Valcepina, Arianna Valcepina, Yuri Confortola, Pietro Sighel, Andrea Cassinelli, Luca Spechenhauser, Tommaso Dotti and Arianna Sighel (Short Track); Michele Malfatti, David Bosa, Andrea Giovannini, Francesca Lollobrigida (Speed Skating); Filippo Ambrosini, Rebecca Ghilardi, Matteo Rizzo, Daniel Grassl, Charlene Guignard, Marco Fabbri, Nicole Della Monica, Matteo Guarise, Lara Naki Gutmann (Figure Skating); Amos Mosaner, Sebastiano Arman, Simone Gonin, Mattia Giovanella, Joel Retornaz (Curling); Sofia Goggia, Federica Brignone, Marta Bassino, Nadia Delago, Nicol Delago, Luca De Aliprandini (Alpine Skiing); Federico Pellegrino, Francesco De Fabiani (Cross-country Skiing); Michela Moioli, Aaron March (Snowboarding); Alessandro Pittin (Nordic Combined); Valentina Margaglio (Skeleton); Silvia Bertagna (Freestyle); Dominik Fischnaller, Kevin Fischnaller, Patrick Rastner and Ludwig Rieder (Luge).
The athletes below will compete in the Paralympics: Giacomo Bertagnolli (Alpine Skiing Athlete); Andrea Ravelli (Bertagnolli’s Guide Athlete); Giuseppe Romele, Christian Toninelli (Nordic Skiing - FISIP). Jacopo Luchini and Riccardo Cardani (Snowboarding - FISIP); Matteo Remotti Marnini, Francesco Torella, Nils Larch, Cristoph De Paoli, Gianluigi Rosa, Santino Stillitano, Julian Kasslatter, Andrea Macrì and Gabriele Araudo (Para Ice Hockey).