The European Youth Olympic Festival had it’s opening day in Slovakia. It is the 16th summer edition, hosted by Banská Bystrica. Teams from 48 participating countries, as well as other participants and hosts of the EYOF Banská Bystrica 2022. The official opening with a cultural program and lighting of the flame of peace will introduce young athletes and visitors to the Olympic movement and the essence of this sports event.
More than 300 judoka have travelled to Slovakia for the biannual event that had to wait for one year extra after the previous Games in Baku in 2019. The Turkish team excelled with four gold medals in judo. Dutch Joanne van Lieshout became EYOF Champion and celebrated the Junior world title last year in Italy. Spanish Ai Tsunoda is a now a feared competitor in the senior division and Grand Slam level, same for Ana Viktorija Puljiz. For men the competition is a bit tougher and not so easy to break through from a period as cadet to junior or even senior level.
We can say though that the EYOF brought a number of successful Olympians on their careers. Ilias Iliadis won the Olympic title in 2004 and was EYOF winner (for Georgia) in 2001. He took two Olympic medals in total and three world titles. Italians Ylenia Scapin won the EYOF in 1991 and claimed two Olympic medals, same number as Odette Giuffrida who was EYOF champion in 2009.
Many of the current stars in the IJF World Tour have won a medal at the Youth Olympic Festival such as Zagreb winner Beka Gviniashvili, Toma Nikiforov, Mikhail Igolnikov, Reka Pupp, Alice Bellandi, Gefen Primo and many others.
“After a long wait and a one-year postponement, we have the biggest multi-sport event in the modern history of Slovakia. We see it as a great opportunity to make our beautiful country visible throughout Europe through sport. Sports events around the world are priceless advertising for the host country,” said the president of the Slovak Olympic and Sports Committee (SOŠV), Anton Siekel.
Slovakia organises the EYOF in a difficult period. Since 2016, the Slovak Olympic and Sports Committee has been developing a major initiative to make the European Youth Olympic Festival in Slovakia a success. Banská Bystrica is turning into a city full of sports, most of the participants arrived at the EYOF scene during the weekend, where ten sports – judo, athletics, badminton, basketball, road cycling, handball, swimming, sports gymnastics, tennis and volleyball – will compete for twelve of ten medal collections. The streets of Banská Bystrica are flooded with hundreds of volunteers, athletes and sports expeditions, as well as domestic and foreign visitors.
The total number of members of the expeditions is 3328 people, of which 2252 are athletes – 1125 boys and 1127 girls. We issued a total of 7369 accreditations. The largest team was sent by Slovakia, consisting of 210 members, 204 without referees, including 149 athletes, the second largest is Germany with 180 members.
The European Youth Olympic Festival is by far the most prestigious Olympic multi sports youth events owned by the EOC. Especially for young sports hopefuls, the Olympics is a great challenge and a turning point in their sports career. The heart of sports and the main sports village will be SPORT PARK EYOF, which will host 5 sports – judo, athletics, swimming, tennis and badminton.