Olympic Games go tango as Argentina hosts YOG for the first time

Singapore's flagbearer at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games - Koen Pang Photo: Getty Images

07 Oct 2018

By Justin Kor in Buenos Aires

There was the lightshow that dazzled and sparkled on display, there were the actors who engaged in daredevil stunts 50 metres in the air, and there definitely was the tango.

In an opening ceremony that was the first of its kind in modern Olympic history, the third summer edition of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) kicked off with a pulsating street party within the heart of Buenos Aires – the birthplace of the world famous dance.

Doing away with the traditional practice of hosting an Olympic opener in a stadium, the organisers took the ceremony to the streets, fulfilling their promise to hold a completely inclusive event for everyone.

Centred near the city’s iconic obelisk, hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the 14-lane 9 de Julio Avenue – one of the widest avenues in the world – to welcome nearly 4,000 athletes from 206 countries.

The ceremony involved a crew of over 2,000, including more than 350 performers, technicians, and musicians from the Argentine theatre company Fuerza Bruta.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said at the event that the experience of YOG2018 will not be forgotten by the athletes.

“We all come from all parts of the world, but we are all united and guided by the Olympic values. This experience will stay with you for all your life.”

The main highlight involved the lighting of the Olympic cauldron with the Youth Olympic Torch, which had travelled more than 15,000 km across Argentina over 60 days. Along the way, the torch made a stop at Ushuaia – the southernmost city in the world – and had even passed through the hands of surfboarding torchbearers.

To mark the first Olympic event that will feature the same number of male and female athletes, a male and female athlete lit the cauldron together, in a bid to promote gender equality in sports.

Olympic judo champion Paula Pareto and two-time sailing gold medalist Santiago Lange were given the honours of lighting the cauldron, ushering in 12 days of sporting action that looks set to captivate the Argentine capital.

Among the competitors were 18 Team Singapore athletes and officials, who also paraded along the avenue as one of the smallest contingents.

Flag-bearer Koen Pang represented Singapore in the athletes’ parade. “Going up on the stage was a bit nerve-wrecking,” said the 16-year old paddler.

“But I definitely felt proud being able to represent Singapore and I feel hopeful and confident that the Singapore contingent will do well.”