14 sporting events with more than 100 competitions scheduled, 2,300 participants including 1,300 athletes aged 14 to 18, 12 ski resorts, 1,300 volunteers and 80 regional accommodation facilities involved in hospitality: these are the figures from the XVI edition of winter sports, on snow and ice, of the European Youth Olympic Festival, scheduled from 21-28 January next year in Friuli Venezia Giulia.
The official torch lighting ceremony, organised at the Ara Pacis in Rome, got the countdown to EYOF 2023 underway, marking the start of the torch’s journey from Rome, travelling up through Italy and connecting its symbolic cities, before arriving in Trieste’s Piazza Unità d'Italia on 21 January for the opening ceremony of the international multi-sports event, which will feature the debut of ski mountaineering, freestyle skiing (slopestyle & big air) and ski cross. The opening stretch of the torchlit relay featured athlete Sara Scattolo, gold medallist at the World Youth Biathlon Championships and testimonial for Friuli Venezia Giulia of EYOF 2023 FVG, who handed over to the President of the European Olympic Committees Spyros Capralos and the President of the Region Massimiliano Fedriga.
“I am really proud and honoured to be here with all of you, in an iconic place, a unique site in the world", CONI President Giovanni Malagò said in his speech at the ceremony. “Italy is not only a country that has won an impressive number of medals in the Olympic Games and the Youth Games, but it is also one of the founding IOC countries and has always been a standard-bearer in its organisation of major sporting events. I have merely inherited this history, I try to maintain and if possible, improve upon it. The pairing of EYOF 2023 Friuli Venezia Giulia and Milano Cortina 2026 is something unique, making us the object of envy. There may well be youngsters such as Sara Scattolo who will be protagonists first at this event and then later in the Winter Olympic Games. It is a good omen, but more than that, it is the desire to do well and make it through a difficult period: ours is a world that brings peace and we must protect peace with the example of these girls and boys”.
“Many times I have been to Friuli Venezia Giulia”, Malagò continued, “and I have met serious people, who love sport and value it. There is a formidable job being done both for top-level sports and for that of grassroots. Finally, I wish to thank the European Olympic Committees for their trust: we will repay that trust by going ahead with our organisational tradition for this European Youth Olympic Festival”.
“It is a real honour to be at the Ara Pacis, in this iconic place, a symbol of peace”, emphasised Spyros Capralos, President of the European Olympic Committees. “The European Youth Olympic Festival has always been a special event and one that’s very dear to me. Today, in this historic setting, this ceremony is of great relevance, given that thirty years after its first winter edition, the Festival returns once more to Italy, to the gorgeous Friuli Venezia Giulia region. It is an event aimed at promoting the Olympic values of peace and respect: here today begins a journey of celebration of these values that the organising committee has been able to embrace through its agreement with Milano Cortina 2026, leaving the local area with an important legacy. The young champions will use this event as a springboard for their careers. I'm sure that we are going to witness a great show. I wish you the best of luck in these final months of preparation and I can assure you that the European Olympic Committees will always be there to support you”.
Record-breaking not only in number terms, this unique edition will also include many new organisational features, starting with its widespread, cross-border nature, with 12 regional ski resorts actively involved, including two venues in Austria and Slovenia. This uniqueness has come about through the already effective memorandum of understanding involving the Milano Cortina 2026 Foundation. Taking part in the project have been: students from the Trieste and Udine university polytechnics; state high school volunteers; non-profit social cooperatives; the University of Udine and Agrifood researching high-performance menus for winter sports athletes which use only regional products such as their sustainable Lunch Box; the University of Udine for the development of a project analysing the environmental and economic effects of the Festival; the Department of Mathematical, I.T. and Physical Sciences of the University of Udine for the development of a visual traceability system of athletes' performances; and the regional Department of Education and Vocational Training and School Office Directorate for organising a conference promoting the values of Olympic sport and inviting students to attend scheduled sports competitions.