The Ukrainian team received a huge ovation when they entered the arena during the Athlete Parade ©FISU

International University Sports Federation (FISU) Acting President Leonz Eder paid tribute to the victims of "senseless wars" and the killer storm that hit New York state during his address at the Opening Ceremony of the Winter World University Games here.

The Games are being staged just a month after extreme weather conditions struck Buffalo, resulting in the deaths of at least 27 people.

War also continues to rage in Ukraine as the country remains under attack from Russian forces with the assistance of its military ally Belarus.

Russia, which have topped the medal standings at every winter edition of the World University since Harbin 2009, have been banned along with Belarus due to the invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

Eder did not directly mention the war in Ukraine but was keen to pay tribute to those that have lost their lives in conflicts as well as the natural disaster in New York during his speech at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid.

"To see so many of you gathered here today is a proud and emotional moment, which should make these World University Games a truly festive occasion, especially after the cancellation of Lucerne 2021," said Eder.

"In this respect, we must also acknowledge the very real challenges and hardships endured and overcome by our host communities over recent weeks and months.

Lake Placid 2023 staged a stunning Opening Ceremony to mark the start of the Winter World University Games ©ITG
Lake Placid 2023 staged a stunning Opening Ceremony to mark the start of the Winter World University Games ©ITG

"We know that many present here today have been affected by the heavy storms that struck New York state towards the end of last year.

"Let us remember not only the victims of this natural disaster, but all those who suffer and become victims of senseless wars as well.

"I hope therefore that you will join me in a short moment of silent appreciation."

Eder remains Acting President of FISU with Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin continuing to delegate his responsibilities to the Swiss official.

Matytsin stepped aside as head of FISU in March 2021 in according with doping sanctions against Russia imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency and watered down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport following the cover-up of a state-sponsored doping programme.

A 58-strong Ukrainian delegation received one of the loudest cheers of the Opening Ceremony when they walked onto the ice for the Athlete Parade at the Opening Ceremony.

More than 2,400 athletes and officials from 46 countries are set to compete at the Games over the next 11 days.

The Opening Ceremony was a superb spectacle, featuring high-flying aerialists, dancing and musical acts as it looked to celebrate local culture and Indigenous groups.

Proceedings began with a beautiful performance of Ohenton Karihwatehken, known in English as Greetings to the Natural World, by Akwesasne singer-songwriter Theresa Bear Fox.

An ancestral welcome and land acknowledgement started proceedings at the Olympic Center ©FISU
An ancestral welcome and land acknowledgement started proceedings at the Olympic Center ©FISU

The tradition is commonly referred to as the "opening address" and aims to recognise the importance and relationship of life forces in creation as well as to unite people.

Lake Placid lies in the Adirondack Mountains which has served as hunting grounds for several nearby groups in the past, most notably the Mahicans and the Mohawks of the Iroquois Confederacy.

The United States national anthem was performed in brilliant fashion by Christopher Kinney, a former bobsledder who competed in the four-man event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

The Athlete Parade was followed by speeches from Eder, Lake Placid 2023 President James McKenna and New York State Governor Kathy Hochul.

Olympic Nordic combined champion Billy Demong and double Olympic Alpine skiing medallists Andew Weibrecht joined James Miller, Arthur Lussi and Nina Lussi in carrying the torch down Main Street to the Cauldron.

Inside the arena, there was a stunning production by the American Ice Theatre and dancers Angela Kim, Pawel Walczewski and Sarah Sporich before the Cauldron lighting was shown on the big screen.

Arthur Lussi, who captained the US Alpine skiing team at the Štrbské Pleso 1987 Winter Universiade and is head of both the Lake Placid Vacation Corporation and Crowne Plaza Hotel, lit the Cauldron.

The FISU Flame was carried in an environmentally friendly Torch with no actual combustion present.

Instead, LED lights on the Torch produce an illuminated Flame in a carbon-free presentation in line with its Save Winter campaign.