EYOF officially open, the Olympic flame was lit in the Ljudski vrt

Maribor, July 23, 2023 - Today the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) 2023 was officially opened with a spectacular ceremony, which was sold out in record time. More than 200 artists accompanied the athletes, including Joker out, the Slovenian Army Orchestra, Raiven and more than 5,000 spectators. During the Festival, the streets of Maribor will be filled with 2,419 young athletes from 48 countries.

The ceremonial opening began with the Slovenian national anthem and the raising of the Slovenian flag, which caused special excitement and anticipation in the Ljudski vrt. After the welcome by moderators Melani Mekicar and Rok Škrlep it was time for the presentation of young athletes. They were accompanied by the Orchestra of the Slovenian Army together with 5 young musical talents – Martin, Maša, Lenart, Valerio and Ana. The honour of carrying the Slovenian flag at the parade went to mountain biker Maruša Tereza Šerkeza and athlete Žan Ogrinec. Žan won a silver medal in the 800 m run at last year’s EYOF, and Maruša Tereza took the top step at last year’s U16 European Championship.
After the first act of the opening ceremony, the most popular Slovenian band at the moment – Joker out – took the stage, which created a wave of enthusiasm among the audience. The surprises were not over yet. After that, the Slovenian opera singer Raiven sang together with the orchestra during the ceremonial raising of the flag of the European Olympic Committee.
This was followed by oath of volunteers, athletes, judges and coaches, who pledged in front of the audience to follow all the rules and Olympic values. Then came the moment we were all waiting for. Since ancient Greece, the symbol of the Olympic Games has been a flame, which symbolically represents peace, friendship, tolerance and hope, as well as Olympic values. The lighting of the torch marks the official start of this year’s EYOF, and it will smoulder until the final act, on 29 July 2023, when the baton is handed over to the next host country. The Olympic flame was ceremoniously lit by Tim Marovt, a Slovenian athlete who can be an inspiration to everyone. The sculpture where the fire will burn for the duration of the festival was designed by Greta Godnič, an award-winning scenographer. It consists of 11 parts that surround the flame and represent 11 sports branches of EYOF, three of which are new – skateboarding, mountain biking and 3-on-3 basketball.
»EYOF is the largest multi-disciplinary sports event in our country and we are proud to be part of this unforgettable experience for young athletes who will take away from the festival not only medals, but also new experiences and invaluable friendships, which actually counts the most,« said the first man of Slovenian sports, president of the Olympic Committee of Slovenia, Franjo Bobinac.
The President of the European Olympic Committee, Spyros Capralos, added that the EYOF represents the first realization of the Olympic dream for young athletes and marks a turning point, a key point in the beginning of their careers. »There is no doubt that we will see the stars of the future, many EYOF winners later won medals at the European and Olympic Games. I would like to thank everyone, the organizing committee, the Municipality of Maribor, the Slovenian government, the Slovenian Olympic Committee, the volunteers and everyone who worked hard to make the event a success.«
The ceremony was also attended by the president of the Republic of Slovenia, Nataša Pirc Musar, who emphasized in the Olympic spirit: »Let this Olympic festival be a celebration of sports, fulfilled dreams, friendship and mutual respect,« and the mayor of the Municipality of Maribor, Saša Arsenovič, who said: »For many young athletes, EYOF will be the start of their future professional sports career, and at the same time it will be an opportunity to create strong connections and friendships. As a dedicated sportsman for all my life, I can say sport is not only training and competitions. And I hope that the competitors will pass on such an example to the Slovenian youth and perhaps inspire them for one of the sports disciplines that will take place in Maribor.«
The grand opening was directed by Nejc Levstik, one of the most renowned young directors and screenwriters in Slovenia. Greta Godnič took care of the design of the stage.

The Slovenian national team represents one of the largest national teams at EYOF. It consists of 196 members, which makes it the largest national team in independent Slovenia that has ever performed at the Summer Olympic Festival of European Youth. They will perform in 11 sports, and the schedule of competitive performances of the Slovenian national team is available at the link.