The opening ceremony of the World Festival of Youth and Students took place in Sochi, Russia, on Sunday, with President Vladimir Putin saying that the event will gather 30,000 people, making it the most representative in history.
Putin began his address at the opening by reminding participants that this year marks the 70th anniversary since the first World Festival of Youth and Students was held in Prague.
“Back then, young guys, like you now, were united by the power of a dream and faith that the youth – their sincerity and kindness – can break the ice of mistrust and help rid the world of injustice, wars and conflicts, ” the Russian president said.
“They have proven that barriers are powerless in the face of true friendship, and that the warmth of human communication isn’t dependent on political, religious, cultural and other differences,” he added.
The Russian leader also said that the Sochi festival will become the most representative in history, bringing together “approximately 30,000 participants, guests, and volunteers from over 180 countries of the world from all the continents.”
“We’re going to do everything for you to succeed,” Putin promised to the participants, urging them to “strive to change this world and make it a better place.”
The grand opening gathered around 10,000 young men and women from all over the world – musicians, athletes, journalists, scientists and leaders of various youth and political movements – at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi’s Olympic Park.
And they weren’t just there to take in the spectacular show, which the organizers titled ‘The Awakening,’ but also became its full-fledged participants.
Each audience members was given props to be used during specific parts of the ceremony, like turning on illuminating bracelets in a segment on energy or making a paper plane and letting it fly.
The song and dance performances during the show centered on “technology, human progress and development,” which will become the prime topics of the Sochi gathering, RT’s Caleb Maupin reported from the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
At one point, the show was interrupted by a young man from the southern Russian city of Vladikavkaz, who used the occasion to propose to his girlfriend.
The ceremony concluded with a massive fireworks display, which lit up the night sky above Sochi’s Imereti Lowlands.
Prior to the grand opening, around 9,000 participants of the festival took part in a dance flash mob to the tune of the official anthem of the Sochi event, ‘Love is all that matters.’
The guests were also greeted by a video call from the International Space Station in which Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazansky shared his experience of working with foreign colleagues in orbit.
“Space taught us two things: the first one is the need to find common language… there’s no time to think about differences – it’s much more important to know that next to you there’s a brilliant professional, reliable colleague and, more importantly, a true friend, whom you fully trust,” he said.
“We understood the second thing when we looked down at our planet: we are all responsible for our home, a small and fragile planet, which is lost in infinite space,” Ryazansky added.
The Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi will host the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students until October 22.
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The motto of the event, which is promoted online through the #WeAreFuture and #ImFestival hashtags, is ‘For peace, solidarity and social justice, we struggle against imperialism. Honoring our past, we build the future!’
The festival, organized by the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) along with the International Union of Students since 1947, is being held in Russia for the third time after being staged in Moscow in 1957 and 1985.