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1st Winter Youth Olympics opens in Innsbruck

The inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games got underway on Friday with an opening ceremony featuring classic and modern dance, along with video flashbacks to 1964 and 1976 when Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympics.

"It is altogether fitting that this new Olympic tradition will begin in Innsbruck," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said. "These games will enhance a great legacy."

The Youth Olympic cauldron at the Bergisel ski jumping stadium was lit by Paul Gerstgraser, who will represent Austria in the nordic combined event.

The 1964 and 1976 cauldrons were lit by the respective Olympic downhill champions, Egon Zimmermann and Franz Klammer, while the Olympic flag was carried into the stadium by a series of former Olympic champions from Austria, including ski jumpers Toni Innauer and Karl Schnabl.

The games run through Jan. 22 with 1,059 athletes ages 15-18 from 70 countries competing in 63 medal competitions.

Some sports are new to the Olympics, others are known sports in a new format with teams of mixed genders and nationalities competing, underlining the event's values of respect and friendship.

"To the athletes, I say, these games exist for you," Rogge said. "You have come here ... not just to compete against each other, but also to learn from each other. This evening marks your entry into the Olympic world."

The IOC president added that participating in the games is not just an honor but "a great responsibility" as well.

"As the next generation of sports men and women, you are now the role models that represent our hopes for the future," Rogge said. "You have a chance to be true champions, not only by winning medals, but by conducting yourself like Olympians.

"Strive for excellence, but compete with friendship and respect for your opponents. Reject doping and other shortcuts that cheat yourself as well as others."

Among the 20,000 visitors attending the ceremony were Austrian President Heinz Fischer; coordination commission chairman for the Winter Youth Olympic Games and president of the International ski federation, Gian-Franco Kasper; and Olympic figure skating champion and "YOG ambassador" Kim Yu-na.