FOUR thousand young athletes from more than 200 countries, including St Georges Basin’s Alex Halank, have participated in an opening ceremony like no other, at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
In an Olympic first, Buenos Aires opened its streets to more than 250,000 people, welcoming them to the street party-style celebrations centered around the iconic Obelisk monument, in the widest avenue in the world – Aveninda 9 de Julio.
The city ushered in and celebrated the start of the Games with the Opening Ceremony featuring a giant countdown projected onto the Obelisk and a myriad of fireworks.
Canberra's Keely Small carried the Australian flag across the centre stage with pride, representing the 88 athletes, including wind surfer Alex Halank, who will wear the green and gold in the Argentinian capital over the 12 days of competition.
"It was an awesome feeling to hold the flag representing the Team and country," Small said.
"We were standing backstage and could see the thousands of people at the opening ceremony.
“It was a bit nerve racking but I was excited.
“We had to practice the flag bearing back stage so that we were all in sync.
“I was excited to walk across the stage for Australia."
Acrobats spun and danced around the iconic five Olympic rings as they were raised into the air, before six Argentinian athletes guided the Olympic Flag to the main stage.
In traditional Argentinian style, while tango dancers wowed on the main stage, couples dancing the tango appeared on the balconies of buildings on 9 de Julio Avenue, making the ceremony a spectacle from every angle.
Finally, the remaining two Olympic Torch bearers burst on to the stage to ignite the Olympic flame.
The torch was lit by Paula Pareto (judo) and Santiago Lange (sailing) – one man and one women to signify the first gender equal Games in Olympic history
"The Opening Ceremony itself was amazing and was very entertaining as it incorporated all sports and really demonstrated the Olympic Spirit and what the Games are about," Small said.
Olympic champion pentathlete Chloe Esposito, in Buenos Aires as a team mentor, was excited after missing out on the Rio Opening Ceremony.
"It was fantastic because I didn't get to walk in Rio as I was at a training camp in Mexico, so it is an experience I'll never forget," said Esposito.
"The best part was seeing all the young athletes' faces and how excited they were to be there.
"It also made me realise how much I love being an athlete and makes me want to get to Tokyo 2020 even more."
With one big job done, Small is ready to focus on her main job for the Games.
"The plan from now is to fully get into competition mode and focus on competing to the best of my ability," she said.
"I'm feeling great and I am happy with where I am at in training and my mindset is strong.
“I'm really looking forward to the coming days of competition and competing in the green and gold.
“I am competing on the 11th and 14th in the 800m against a strong field of athletes."