Lausanne 2020: The Olympic capital stages an Olympic Games for the first time

10 Jan 2020

By Justin Kor in Lausanne

Gina Zehnder, the youngest member of the Swiss team, lighting of the Youth Olympic Cauldron in the Lausanne Vaudoise Arena at the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Youth Olympic Games. Photo: OIS/Joe Toth

It was a homecoming more than a hundred years in the making. Since 1915, Lausanne has been home to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). But remarkably, this Swiss city that has long been regarded as the Olympic Capital has never hosted an Olympic event. Until now.

Last night, the third winter edition of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) kicked off in the city with an opening ceremony that was a mesmerising 90-minute display of Swiss culture, technology, and art.

It seemed like the city had long awaited this moment as it pulled out all the stops. The curtain raiser included a traditional Swiss music performance, a dazzling 3D drone show, and a death-defying display of aerial ballet that dazzled a completely packed Vaudoise Aréna.

As the Olympic’s youngest event also celebrates turning 10 this year, IOC President Mr Thomas Bach announced at the event that the Olympics had finally returned home.

President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach in the Lausanne Vaudoise Arena at the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Youth Olympic Games. Photo: OIS/Joe Toth

“For more than one hundred years, Lausanne has been the home of the IOC. This is why for all Olympic friends, Lausanne is also home. Our wonderful Swiss hosts make us feel at home, right here in the Olympic Capital,” as he addressed the athletes.

“This is why I say: ‘Dear athletes, welcome home!’”

Indeed, for the next 14 days, over 1,800 of the best young winter athletes from 79 countries will descend on Lausanne to compete for Olympic glory.

Every edition of the YOG has brought something new to the Olympic Movement, and Lausanne will be no different. This will be the first Winter Olympic event to achieve full gender balance, as an equal number of male and female athletes compete in eight sports and 16 disciplines. It will also be the first Winter Olympic event where spectators will be able enjoy the events free of charge.

Organisers have also devised a new system where athletes will arrive in two waves, with each batch having a shorter stay on-site. This has led to the largest turn out ever for a Winter YOG, with 12 new National Olympic Committees (NOC) making their Games debut.

Besides Lausanne, events will also be held in seven other locations around Switzerland and France: La Vallée de Joux, Leysin, Les Diablerests, Villars, Champéry, St Moritz, and the French village of Les Rousses. It will be the first time in history that two countries have co-hosted an Olympic event.

The sport of ski mountaineering will make its debut, along with five new events which include the likes of a mixed NOC 3×3 ice hockey tournament and snowboard big air.

Matthew in training at the Lausanne Vaudoise Arena, he will be participating in the men’s hockey mixed NOC 3×3 team event.

A Singapore triple threat in Switzerland 

After debuting at the Winter Olympics in South Korea in 2018, Singapore is set to mark another milestone in winter sports with a first appearance at the Winter YOG.

Three athletes will be flying our flag in Switzerland, with the speed skating duo of Alyssa Pok and Trevor Tan, and ice hockey player Matthew Hamnett set to take to the ice in Lausanne.

Matthew, who is part of the first wave of athletes, has been quickly getting up to speed with his international teammates on the rink before their tournament begins later today.

“The intensity of training and skill levels of the players are higher, and my teammates are all really friendly,” said the 16-year old defender.

“When mistakes happen on the ice, we laugh it off – there’s no harsh remarks or toxicity. I’m loving the experience so far.”


Relive the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games here on Olympic Channel.

Catch the sporting action of the Winter YOG on Toggle TV