The European Games officially began in the Polish city of Kraków on Wednesday with an impressive opening ceremony.
Some sports, including beach handball and track events, have been underway since Tuesday.
The ceremony’s highlight was the lighting of the Peace Torch, which Polish President Andrzej Duda received in Rome on April 3. Over the past month, the torch has traveled across Poland.
“May this great celebration of sport also be a great celebration of peace,” said Duda, officially opening the Krakow-Małopolska 2023 European Games. With over 7,000 athletes from 48 countries, including a 370-member Polish team, the games kicked off at the Henryk Reyman City Stadium in Kraków.
“I warmly greet all the delegations that have come to Kraków. I welcome thousands of the best athletes from 48 European countries. We are immensely pleased that Poland is hosting the third edition of the European Games,” said the president.
“I especially welcome the athletes from Ukraine, which is engaged in a heroic war against Russian aggression. Your presence here is a clear sign that Olympic ideals are stronger than evil and violence,” he added.
A procession of representatives from all delegations took place prior to the lighting of the Peace Torch. Led by flag bearers, the athletes showcased themselves in their respective national colors.
The ceremony was further elevated by artistic performances featuring dance troupes and state-of-the-art special effects. The spectacle, which began with the traditional St. Mary’s Trumpet Call, paid homage to the most important moments in Polish history, celebrating distinguished Polish figures and athletes.
The Games’ program encompasses 29 sports with 12 of them simultaneously competing for European Championship medals. Moreover, the competitions in 19 sports will serve as qualifications for next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.
Kraków is the host city of the games, while competitions will take place in several towns in the Małopolskie region as well as in Bielsko-Biała, Chorzów, Rzeszów and Wrocław.