By Daniel Etchells in the Montafon Valley in Austria

The Opening Ceremony performers at the EYOF surround the Olympic flame ©ÖOC/GEPAThe European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) has officially begun with the Opening Ceremony taking place at the Montafon Nordic Sports Centre in Tschagguns.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Prince Alois of Liechtenstein made the inauguration during the Ceremony, which featured 150 amateur performers from Vorarlberg and Liechtenstein.

The close relationship between the two co-hosts was the central theme of the show, illustrated by boys and girls meeting on a symbolic bridge in a fantasy world.

Bearing the slogan "Stars of Tomorrow", the young artists aimed to relate to the promising talents who will be fighting for medals from tomorrow until Friday (January 30).

The highlight of the Ceremony was the lighting of the Olympic Flame by eight-year-old Torchbearer Chiara, from Balzers, Liechtenstein, who flew into the venue on a flying fox. 

Following the parade of the 45 participating nations' athletes, Carmen Wyler and Thomas Pegram, from Balzers and Hohenems, Austria, respectively, sang the national anthems in front of the 5,000 spectators present.

Special Olympics athletes were accompanied by event mascot, Alpy the marmot, in carrying the Olympic flag, while the Olympic anthem was also played.

Dancers dressed in the respective colours formed the Olympic Rings and the EYOF logo, while aerialists and cross-country and Alpine skiers, among others, further entertained the crowd.

The Olympic Oath was spoken by Austrian snowboarder Xaver Kuster, on behalf of the athletes, Marion Vettori, daughter of Austria's Olympic ski jumping champion Ernst, on behalf of the judges, and Ralf Jegler, the Liechtenstein Skiing Federation's head coach for young male Alpine skiers, on behalf of the coaches. 

The event's official song "Rock the Alps", composed by Roger Szedalik from Liechtenstein, was performed by Wolfgang Nipp and Chantal Nitzelnader, accompanied by Ralph Hollenstein on bass, Tamara Sauerwein on keyboard, Maximilian Näscher on drums and Szedalik on guitar.

The Austrian and Liechtenstein delegations arrive at the Opening Ceremony of the European Youth Olympic Festival at at the Montafon Nordic Sports Centre ©ÖOC/GEPAThe Austrian and Liechtenstein delegations arrive at the Opening Ceremony of the European Youth Olympic Festival at at the Montafon Nordic Sports Centre ©ÖOC/GEPA

The 2015 EYOF is the first-ever Olympic event to be co-hosted by two countries and Austrian Olympic Committee secretary general Peter Mennel, described it as a special moment.

"For the first time in history an Olympic event is co-hosted by two nations," he said. 

"Two nations, that means two legislations, two Governments, two different mind-sets, but one goal - the perfect organisation of the European Youth Olympic Festival 2015.

"Five years ago we won the bid process for this event in Belgrade.

"Since then the border between Liechtenstein and Austria has practically disappeared.

"Most of you might not even be able to tell which country you are in and this is actually what we hoped for.

"The cooperation with our neighbours is great fun and we hope that you will recognise this."

Mennel went on to thank the EYOF Organising Committee and the 1,200 volunteers, who he said "have worked day and night to create perfect conditions for the multi-sport event".

"We owe them much because thanks to their work, the athletes can fully concentrate on their competitions," he added. 

Also present at the Ceremony was European Olympic Committees President Patrick Hickey, who welcomed Liechtenstein Prime Minister Adrian Hasler and Liechtenstein Sports Minister Marlies Amann-Marxer during his speech. 

Austrian Sports Minister Gerald Klug and Vorarlberg Governor Markus Wallner were in attendance too.

Performers were scattered around the main stage at the bottom of the Montafon Nordic ski jumping hill ©ÖOC/GEPAPerformers were scattered around the main stage at the bottom of the Montafon Nordic ski jumping hill ©ÖOC/GEPA

Hickey paid special thanks to the Presidents of the National Olympic Committees of Austria, Karl Stoss, and Liechtenstein, Leo Kranz, before the inauguration.

"They have already shown Olympic spirit and endless commitment during the organisation of this event," said Hickey. 

"I am sure the Festival will be magnificent."

The action is due to get underway tomorrow with ice hockey, figure skating, cross-country skiing, Nordic combined, Alpine skiing and snowboard all featuring on the day's programme.

Contact the writer of this story at daniel.[email protected]

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