Bhaker leads Indian contingent, 'Wild Boars' welcomed as Youth Olympic Games opens on street
Buenos Aires, Oct 7 (PTI) Shooter Manu Bhaker had the honour of leading the Indian contingent as its flag-bearer as the opening ceremony of the Youth Olympic Games, in a first, was held on the streets with over two lakh people showing up.
The innovative idea put in shade the dazzling fireworks and the glow in the Buenos Aires night sky. Invited to the one-of-its kind ceremony, the 'Wild Boars' from Thailand were hailed by the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.
The 'Wild Boars' team captured the attention of the world in June when they were trapped for almost two weeks inside a flooded cave in the Chang Rai province of Thailand.
Bach acknowledged their "strength and resilience".
"They are truly Olympic values and that is why I have asked them to come to Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires to share their experiences with other young athletes," Bach had said as Argentina braced up for its biggest multi-sporting global event.
Holding their place of importance in the culturally vibrant city that continues to retain some of its medieval charm, the portenos sang and the tango dancers dance.
The Games will bring 4,000 athletes, from 206 teams, aged 15-18 to Buenos Aires.
A contingent of 68 members from India, including 46 athletes, is in Argentina to compete in 13 sports during the prestigious event.
This is India's largest ever contingent at the Youth Olympics. Hockey 5s has most number of Indian participants with 18 (nine each in men's and women's team) while track and field has seven athletes. Other Indian participants are: shooting (4), recurve archery (2), badminton (2), swimming (2), table tennis (2), weightlifting (2), wrestling (2), rowing (2), boxing (1), judo (1), sport climbing (1).
The 16-year-old Bhaker, who had won gold in 10m air pistol at Guadalajara World Cup as well as Commonwealth Games, will be among top medal contenders for India at the Youth Olympics.
In the festive atmosphere, Bhaker got a photograph clicked with other medal prospect shooters Mehuli Ghosh and Saurabh Chaudhary.
The show itself was spectacular, with the Olympic rings appearing to float in the air, the Youth Olympic sports being presented on the iconic Obelisk, and numerous tango dancers performing on the balconies of the apartments lining the avenue, as per the IOC.
Almost 2,000 people worked to ensure the smooth running of the ceremony, including more than 350 artists, technicians and musicians from the Argentinian theatre company Fuerza Bruta, which captivated a worldwide audience.
Addressing the young athletes, Bach said: "To get here, each of you trained and competed hard. You gave your best in the sport you love so much. This is why you deserve to be here, at your Games.
"Every athlete is different. We all come from different parts of the world and have different cultures. But we are all united by the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect. Guided by these Olympic values, each one of you makes a difference in sport and in life.
"This experience will stay with you for all your life. We are all assembled here to celebrate you, as the real game-changers."
The final part of the ceremony saw the Youth Olympic flame being passed among several young Argentinian athletes representing all the other athletes, who will be inspiring the public over the next 12 days of competition.
The Torch Relay concluded with two legends of Argentinian sport - Paula Pareto and Santiago Lange - who had the honour of lighting the cauldron with the Youth Olympic flame.
The flame was then moved to the Youth Olympic Park, where it will continue to burn until the end of the Games on October 18