In a University of Sherbrooke Stadium packed to capacity a sparkling ceremony inaugurated the 3rd IAAF World Youth Championships. With displays of dancing, gymnastics and music, Sherbrooke welcomed the youth of the world.
Sherbrooke is a city of water, surrounded by forests and lakes and rivers, so the central theme of the ceremony was water –in this year that Unesco has declared the year of drinking water. From the giant stylised fish figure that dominated the central stage, to the waving blue and green and white banners, the ceremony flowed between modern dances to local folk troupes, all preceding the traditional parade of the athletes.
The Championships mascot Pody also made his appearance again, leading in patron of Sherbrooke 2003, Bruny Surin, who had passed the morning at the This is Athletics clinic.
Addressing the public and athletes, IAAF President Lamine Diack expressed the wish that these Championships be above all an opportunity for the youngsters competing here from all around the world to come together in a spirit of fraternity and loyal competition.
President Diack gave special thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who have given up their time and sacrificed some of their family life to contribute to the success of the Championships.
As Mr Paul de Villers, Minister of Sport declared the 3rd IAAF World Youth Championships open, 1128 athletes from 158 countries prepared to give of their best in the four days of competition that await them here in Canada. But one more surprise awaited them before the starting gun for the first event of the competition: Sherbrooke native Garou, an international star took the scene to give the final touch to the opening ceremony and the build up to the track and the women’s 3000 metres.
The first medal of the Championships went to Siham Hilali of Morocco, who sprinted to the finish line on the home straight, overtaking Pasalia Chepkorir Kipkoech (KEN) and Yuko Nohara of Japan, with these athletes taking respectively silver and bronze to complete the first podium of Sherbrooke 2003. Hilali’s winning time of 9:12.70 was a new personal record for the 17-year-old Moroccan.