EOC President Spyros Capralos said EYOFs "provide the best youngsters from across the continent with vital experience" ©EOC

European Olympic Committees (EOC) President Spyros Capralos has said that the Winter European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) set to start tomorrow in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of northern Italy will "provide the best youngsters from across the continent with vital experience".

The Winter EYOF is open to athletes aged 14 to 18, with more than 1,300 expected to take part across 14 sports.

Slovenia and Austria are also due to host events as part of Friuli Venezia Giulia 2023.

Forty-seven countries are due to be represented, although Russia and Belarus continue to be unable to participate due to the war in Ukraine.

Capralos, who is an International Olympic Committee member, underlined the value of the EYOF for young athletes.

"For many of the athletes taking part, this is their first experience of an international multi-sport event and I am sure they will make memories to last a lifetime both in and out of competition," the Greek official, elected as EOC President in June 2021, said.

"European Youth Olympic Festivals, whether Winter or Summer, continue to provide the best youngsters from across the continent with vital experience and to host our second Winter one in the past 12 months is important following the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I want to thank the Friuli Venezia Giulia Organising Committee, as well as the Italian, Slovenian and Austrian National Olympic Committees, for all their hard work and help in making sure the next week will live in the memories of all involved for a long time."

Vuokatti in Finland held a postponed Winter EYOF in March last year, where the host nation topped the medals table with six golds.

The Winter EYOF is set to return to its two-year cycle after Friuli Venezia Giulia 2023, with Borjomi-Bakuriani in Georgia scheduled to host the next edition in 2025.

The Opening Ceremony is set to be held tomorrow at the Piazza Unità d'Italia in Trieste.

Ski mountaineering, a new sport for the Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics, has been added to the programme for the first time, with sprint, individual and sprint mixed team relay events due to be held from Tuesday (January 24) to Friday (January 27) at the Ski Area Forni di Sopra.

Alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ski cross, ice hockey, short track speed skating, ski jumping, ski mountaineering, snowboard Alpine and cross, snowboard freestyle and Nordic combined are also on the programme.

Eleven venues are due to be used, with ski jumping and Nordic combined taking place at the Nordic Centre in Planica in Slovenia, and the Eis-Sport-Arena in the Austrian town of Spittal an der Drau set to be the host for girls' ice hockey.

The Winter EYOF is due to run until next Saturday (January 28), with Udine the host city for the Closing Ceremony.