With the endless Norwegian summer nights in Lillehammer, there may not be many stars in the sky, but there sure were lots of stars in town this week for the kick-off meetings of the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Leading the charge was US ice hockey legend Angela Ruggiero in her role as the Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission - the group of experts who will guide the Games organisers over the next three years.
Angela shared her experiences and advice with the gathered crowd made up of Games organisers, sports bodies and authorities and local schools and universities: “We were encouraged at a young age to get involved in sport and I think you learn a lot about yourself through playing sport so get out there and participate.”
She continued: “The Youth Olympic Games are not just about the experience of participating. It is about coming to the Games to be inspired to go to that next level and to be exposed to all sorts of people.”
She also talked about how the Lillehammer Olympic Winter Games of 1994 inspired her: “I remember watching the Games in 1994 when I was 14. It was the last Games before women's ice hockey was added and my mindset changed from thinking about just playing at college to realising I could play in the Olympics.”
Joining her in Lillehammer was the most decorated winter Olympian of all time, cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie and four-time Olympic gold medallist, Alpine skier Kjetil André Aamodt. Considering Lillehammer’s world-class facilities and stunning scenery, and of course the magic of the YOG, the Norwegian Olympians started to wish that they could turn back time to be able to compete at the 2016 Games.
Laughing with his fellow athlete, Aamodt admitted: “After experiencing the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck earlier this year, I started to get a bit jealous of the opportunity that these kids had! Now though, I just want to give back to sport and to the kids and I hope they can learn from me.”
Dæhlie commented: “When I was watching TV at 15, I looked up to the international sport stars. So at that age, if I had a Youth Olympic Games to aim for, it would have been a huge inspiration. Lillehammer 2016 will be a huge motivation for a lot of young athletes.”
Keep up to date on Lillehammer’s progress on www.facebook.com/youtholympicgames