A spectacular opening ceremony at the Floriana Granaries kickstarted the XIX Games of the Small States of Europe.
The ceremony got underway on Monday evening, where over 1000 athletes from all the nine GSSE Countries took part in the ceremony which gave prominent focus to the athletes. With Andorra opening the Parade of Nations, the other GSSE countries followed alphabetically leaving host nation Malta for last, to a rousing welcome from the thousands present.
Leading the Maltese delegation were tennis player Elaine Genovese and track and field sprinter Matthew Galea Soler who carried Malta’s flag.
The reading of the Olympic oaths was entrusted to Team Malta captain Eleonor Bezzina whilst Mario Bonello and David Bonello read the oaths for coaches and officials respectively.
The lighting up of the Olympic Flame brought together athletes representing various disciplines, including Special Olympics athlete Nicole Caruana, paralympian Maya Theuma, former sailing GSSE medallist Mario Aquilina, shooter William Chetcuti, bowler Sue Abela, who then passed the torch to GSSE legends and gold medallists in the 1993 GSSE, tennis players Helen Asciak and Carol Cassar Torregiani, went on to lit up the flame amid an ecstatic crowd.
The flags of Malta and the Games of the Small States of Europe were carried by youth and veteran athletes who have already started to make a name for themselves in sport, namely Kai Azzopardi (Triathlon), Tenishia Thornton (Weightlifting), Antonio Overend (Judo) Kayden Lagana (Bowling) Zea Montfort (Artistic Swimming), Alec Fenech (Waterpolo), whilst the veteran athletes who have left their mark in the annals of Maltese sporting history and carried the GSSE Flag were. Rachid Chouhal (Athletics), Ivan Riolo (Basketball) Johanna Grech (Table Tennis) , Marcon Bezzina (Judo) , Katya Pace (Swimmer) and Diane Borg (Athletics)
During the ceremony, Julian Pace Bonello, president of the Maltese Olympic Committee, Sports Minister Dr Clifton Grima, Spyros Capralos, the EOC president, before Prime Minister Robert Abela declared the Games open.
Team Malta captain Eleonor Bezzina was given the onus of reading the athletes’ oath while Mario Bonello and David Bonello read the oaths for coaches and officials respectively.