December 11 - There was a mixture of the old and the new and of nationalism and unity, all tinged with a sense of celebration and optimism, as the Trentino 2013 Winter Universiade got off to a spectacular start following the Opening Ceremony here tonight.
Italian composer Guiseppe Verdi, provided the soundtrack to the evening's first ceremonial act as the Italian tricolour was carried into the Piazza to the sound of the famous Triumphal March from Aida, renowned as a piece of symbolic music representing some regions of Italy's tussle for independence from the Austrian Empire in the 19th century.
Verdi was born around 120 miles south of Trento 200 years ago and the occasion coincided with the marking of the Opening Ceremony.
A choir of 50 young chorus singers performed admirably in the shivering conditions as athletes, dignitaries, officials and the public were wowed by a spectacular mix of song and artistic performances projected onto the walls of the Santa Croce Church which lined one side of the Piazza.
Renowned artistic choreographer Klaus Obermaier directed the music and lights extravaganza.
It was then the athletes turn to take centre stage as they began their parade into the Piazza with each delegation getting a warm welcome from, not only their pockets of supporters and team officials packed into the seating area to the rear of the Piazza, but also from crowds lining the streets around the square.
The biggest cheer was, of course, reserved for the Italian athletes as they were the last to make the trek onto centre stage.
Sergio Anesi, President of Trentino 2013, was joined on stage by Ugo Rossi, head of the Autonomous Province of Trento, and Claude-Louis Gallien, President of the International Federation of University Sports (FISU), to officially welcome the 3,000 athletes from more than 50 countries.
Anesi read out a special message from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who wished all the athletes success before reminding them of the power of sport to change the world for the better.
"As Nelson Mandela taught us, sport can break down barriers, unite people and change the world," wrote Napolitano.
"I am convinced that the Universiade participants will be able to capture the essence of this message and will continue to the construction of a future of peace."
Anesi also paid tribute to the Organising Committee and volunteers from around the region for helping to make the Games possible in a relatively short timeframe after Trentino stepped in to organise the event following FISU's decision to strip original hosts Maribor of the hosting rights in March 2012 due to organisational problems.
Gallien thanked organisrs for their efforts in staging the Games before claiming the slogan of the Universiade "Inspired by You" perfectly summed up the efforts of officials, local volunteers and athletes in making the event a success and celebration of sport.
"You are students, athletes, volunteers, coaches, referees, spectators," said Gallien.
"You are professors, researchers and students of the innovative University of Trento.
"You are the people of the Autonomous Province of Trento who have worked hard to turn this event into an unforgettable moment."
Following the reading of the referee and athlete oaths by Deborah Sighel from Italian speed skating and Olympic ice dancer Paolo Bacchini, the most important visitor of the night was about to make its appearance.
With the lights dimmed and a live projection on the church wall, the Trentino Torch made its way up the Via Rodolfo Belenzani adjacent to the Piazza on the final few steps of its journey, which began on November 6 in Vatican City when Pope Francis officially lit the Torch at the start of its Relay.
Since then it has visited Lausanne, Brussels, Innsbruck and Munich, as well as visiting cities across Italy.
Universiade skiers Igor Cigolla and Gianluca Grigoletto were the first Torchbearers on its final leg before they handed it over to Turin 2006 speed skating gold medallist Matteo Anesi, who passed it onto fellow Turin 2006 gold medal winner, cross country skier Cristian Zorzi.
The man who won cross country skiing gold in Grenoble in 1968 had the honour of lighting the Trentino 2013 cauldron which sparkled in a special LED display atop the Torre Civica.
In keeping with the theme of this unique Universiade, the Cauldron has been specially designed to have zero carbon emissions in the first of its kind for any multi-sports Games.
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