Bangkok – After a week’s celebration of action-packed sports, education and friendship, the fifth edition of the UTS World Youth Festival held on the campus of the Srinakharinwirot University in Bangkok city came to a magnificent close as the sun set on 19 November. With an audience of 600 youth, signers at the wings of the stage and the cameras rolling, the closing event saw the atmosphere filled with excitement, new friendships made, groups waiting in anticipation for the medal ceremonies, and young performers ready to give their best under the spotlight.

Despite the humidity of the city and occasional rain shower, the first spectacular performance of the closing saw a riveting dance by Khun Suea, Chyewit Sujaritkul, who has amassed a large following over the pandemic, as a dancer with Downs Syndrome. Three of the four performances, performed by Satit Prasanmit Demonstration School that’s part of our venue host Srinakharinwirot University,  were themed with rich Thai cultural influences. The orchestra with 58 aspiring talents played two classical and cultural pieces using many traditional instruments and percussion. The Pong Lang musical group of Satit Prasanmit featured 16 talented musicians between the ages 15-18 playing traditional Thai music with young performers dancing in the Lakhon style. The audience was then led from traditional to modern day Thai dance with the dynamic and energetic performers of the Satit Prasanmit Contemporary group.

Just before the pandemic in 2019 the Bangkok Urban Youth Tournament was held featuring 6 sports, as an inclusive opportunity for youth from challenged backgrounds to have access to sports, fun and inspiration. The closing festival day saw the tournament reignited across the 6 sports festival zones with 3×3 Basketball, Sepaktakraw, Futsal, Muaythai and Teqball inviting 80 teams to the sports festival competing in friendship and fun. A heartfelt medal ceremony saw the winning teams stand with pride, trophies in hand and big smiles all around.

Bangkok experienced the delivery of the long-awaited APEC Summit which saw the city “Open, connect and balance” on 16-19 November bringing Asia-Pacific leaders back together again after 4 years, placing Thailand at the centre with the two parallel events uniting organisations across the globe.

During the closing ceremony the main stakeholders, supporters and 6 Olympic cities were thanked for their contribution and where President Giovanni Malagò of Milano Cortina 2026 said: “We are proud to be part of the UTS World Youth Festival for the third successive year with a team of young athletes representing the winter sports world. Milano Cortina 2026 strongly believes in the power of youth as a catalyst for social change and inclusion. The Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games of Milano Cortina 2026, and all its beautiful territories, will be an opportunity for giving further momentum to the values of sport.”

Before the festival closed, letters of gratitude, support, social media posts of pride and many gestures of appreciation were given to the UTS team. The intention of the festival was to encourage inclusion of everybody regardless of differences and this festival saw countless examples of an inclusive approach be it in the topics of the education program, the opening and closing ceremonies ensuring disability access. The virtual competitions ensured a competition for everybody and each element of the festival invited youth of all abilities to take part. 

UTS has had the honour of support from Dr Chungwon Choue since the inception who said: “As the World President of Taekwondo and the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, it gives me great pride and pleasure to be once again part of the inspiring United Through Sports.I would like to applaud and salute the UTS family and everyone that has contributed from the IOC, IPC, SOI, and the international sports movement, and certainly the Kingdom of Thailand for working in solidarity towards peace and hope. We all understand the importance sport plays towards youth development.”

The 15 UTS Ambassadors held up flags of hope and demonstrated through their friendships, an action-oriented approach not only to supporting one another, but sending out messages of inspiration through their stories and on their social media across the festival days. These young change-makers have demonstrated the potential young voices have to change the world by uniting as one voice.

UTS and AIMS President Stephan Fox closed the festival and said: “It has been a phenomenal event on so many levels. I have been overwhelmed with pride as I saw the youth step up and support one another whilst advocating for inclusion throughout the festival. We feel so much gratitude to all 140 organisations who have supported this event and to NSDF, SAT and the Srinakharinwirot University. After a difficult virtual era, sport is back on the ground and we are connected on and off the field of play once again. This festival is a necessity as we travel from region to region, we see the positive impact that unity and shared values can bring towards the youth of the world and their future.”

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