Energetic, moving Opening Ceremony kicks off World Council

From the opening note of “Can’t stop the feeling”, the Opening Ceremony kicking off the 20th YMCA World Council was energetic, moving, uplifting – and so much more.

The evening featured an upbeat opening performance, a moving tribute to those with special affiliation to the global YMCA Movement who have passed during the last four years since the last World Council, the conducting of official business, and mesmerizing performances by Danish group Lyt and an a-cappella group from YMCA Ukraine.

Kosovo YMCA became the newest World Council member, approved by the voting delegates. The World Council is the supreme governing body of the World Alliance of YMCAs.

It was a night to celebrate what the YMCA has achieved over the past four years, and to reflect on the challenges it faces. Said World YMCA President Patricia Pelton, “You’ll hear a lot about our three Rs of Resilience, Recovery and Reimagination. And the Reimagination is very exciting.”

Our path forward

Danish hosts Peter and Malene, masters of ceremony for the opening and closing ceremonies, began by honouring the indigenous people who are the holders of the languages, beliefs and traditions we cherish.  “We thank them for the opportunity to come together.”

Elected president of YMCA and YWCA Denmark when he was only 27, Martin Thomsen praised the power of young people, and said it was a privilege to welcome YMCAs throughout the world to Aarhus. World Councils have the power to bring people together and form partnerships in a way unlike any other organization.

“It was on a canoe trip at the 2014 World Council in Estes Park, Colorado, USA that we formed a close partnership with the YMCA of South Africa,” he said. “There were no canoe trips on our day of Excursions in Denmark today, but I hope that many friendships will be formed at this World Council.”

Aarhus Mayor Jakob Bundsgaard told the Opening Ceremonies how honoured he is that YMCAs from across the globe have travelled to his city. In a sombre moment, he echoed the sadness others had expressed about the violence that took place in Copenhagen and Chicago, USA, in the past two days. Seeing the global YMCA movement come together and form friendships fills him with hope. “Love is stronger than hate. When we bring people together, across borders, we will have a more peaceful world.”

Patricia acknowledged the struggle many endured to travel to Aarhus, whether due to Covid, flight and luggage difficulties, or the inability to obtain a visa.

”We certainly have some talking to do over the next few days – about how we made it here, for better or worse, and about where we’re going from here, I hope only for the better”, she said.

 

Welcoming YMCA Kosovo

Duncan Ingram, Chair of the Governance Sub-Committee, officiated the awarding of a new membership. Earlier, the Executive Committee of the World YMCA unanimously decided to recommend the membership of Kosovo YMCA to this World Council, the supreme governing body of the World Alliance of YMCAs. It was up to World Council to vote to make Kosovo YMCA official members.

When it was revealed that the vote passed, Auron Kadrija, Vice President of Kosovo YMCA, and Adrian Davies, Programme Director, came on stage to a standing ovation. They signed the Golden Book, the membership register of the World YMCA – making their membership official.

 

Musical tributes

From the clapping and toe-tapping of the opening number to the haunting vocals of the group from YMCA Ukraine, the night featured a variety of musical entertainment. The house band opened and closed the show with high energy and flashing lights.

It was just what Cheryl Jeffrey, a first-time World Council delegate from YMCA of England and Wales, had hoped. “The Opening Ceremony was what I am most looking forward to,” she said as she entered the auditorium at the start. “I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I’m looking for something with a lot of energy.”

From the fun of ‘Can’t stop the feeling,’ the music shifted to the beautiful harmonies of the Danish ban Lyt. Also performing was a five-person group from YMCA Ukraine, and their powerful and evocative vocals brought attendees to their feet.

After running the spectrum of emotions, the closing songs of “Ain’t no mountain high enough’ and “Firework,’ had the crowd jumping and clapping, ready to ignite.

 

First ever hybrid World Council

With delegates attending in person and online, the event had record-breaking attendance. A quick look at the Aarhus event by the numbers:

  • There are a record 2,259 participants – 1,133 in person, 1,124 online – shared almost equally among both programmes.

 

  • 71 different National Movements or Affinity Groups are represented in Aarhus, and 69 different National Movements or Affinity Groups are represented Online.

 

  • In Aarhus, 30 percent of the attendees are under the age of 30

Ronald Senghore from The Gambia, a member of the World YMCA Executive Committee, was connected online to the audience. He said how he loved the hybrid format, and the extra possibilities it brought. “It’s a good time to be alive”, he said.

He said as it’s the first hybrid event, he is happy to provide the “eyes from the internet,” and keep a close watch on World Council. “We’ll be here looking with you and making sure that everyone online is having the same experience as those in Aarhus. We have a legacy to leave for future generations.”