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A parade of nations along the lakefront to Pembroke Park began proceedings, before Sports Minister Grant Robertson, Queenstown Lakes District Council Mayor Jim Boult and International Ski Federation secretary-general Sarah Lewis were in attendance to officially open the sixth games.
The Wanaka Primary School kapa haka group welcomed the teams with a waiata and haka.
Mr Boult took the time to acknowledge the "world-class" winter sports facilities in the district and wished the athletes well for the games.
Mr Robertson thanked all of the organisers and volunteers at the games, but saved special praise for Winter Games chairman Sir Eion Edgar.
"Without his vision these games would not happen."
The minister said it was "heartening" to know that 25 of the 30 medalists in freeski and snowboard events at February's Olympic Games would be taking part.
"This is an event that the New Zealand Government is extremely proud to support. The growth of the games since 2009 is something to behold."
"It is truly an inspiring event."
About 930 athletes will compete in six sports over two weeks.
The feature event of the games is the freeski and snowboard junior world championships, which will play host to over 350 athletes from 30 nations.
Ms Lewis described it as the "premier event on the calendar for the best freeski and snowboard athletes in the world".