POSTED: Sunday June 26th 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Special Olympics World Summer Games Kick Off with Spectacular Opening Ceremony in Athens, Greece. 7,500 athletes from more than 180 nations to compete June 25 - July 4.

“I think we’re home,” said Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics as he welcomed an international crowd to the Special Olympics World Summer Games Athens 2011.

ATHENS, GREECE - 25 June 2011 - "I think we're home," said Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics as he welcomed an enthusiastic crowd to the historic Kallimarmaron Panthinaikon Olympic Stadium - site of the first Olympic Games of the modern era - on a beautiful summer night in Athens, Greece.

"Let me extend my thanks to the people of Greece," Shriver continued.  "Despite all the difficulties and challenges this country is facing, Greece did not fail us and the athletes of Special Olympics will not fail Greece!"

Shriver and Special Olympics World Summer Games Organizing President Joanna Despotopoulou greeted the audience.  Then the moment everyone was waiting for, the parade of athletes, began as more than 7000 athletes from nearly 180 nations made their way into the stadium to roaring applause from the fans.

As Special Olympics athletes and coaches from across the world settled in to the stadium, everyone welcomed legendary singer, songwriter, musician and producer Stevie Wonder.  Stevie opened with his song 'You can feel it' followed by 'You are the sunshine of my life' which got the crowd on their feet and dancing. Wonder, one of the great personalities in music history, spoke to the audience about the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics: "Her vision has helped the world appreciate the value of all human beings. Eunice made us understand that we are all special.  Our dreams are only limited by our vision."

Wonder also performed a duet of the song 'That's what friends are for' with longtime Special Olympics supporter and recording artist Vanessa Williams.  Williams co-hosted the show with tenor Mario Frangouli.

Greek history was in the air as a rendition of Homer's "Odyssey" was performed followed by fireworks and applause. Other highlights included performances by singing sensation Alkistis Protopsalti, tenor Vittorio Grigolo, and also special presentations by actress Zhang Ziyi and actress Maria Menounos.

His Excellency Dr. Karolos Papoulias, Hellenic Republic President then declared the Games officially opened, at which time the Special Olympics flag was walked in to the stadium carried by Pyros Dimas, Nadia Comaneci, Edwin Moses, Michelle Kwan, Jermaine Edie, Ana Miliovojevic and Ana Eduarda.

Members of Special Olympics Team Hellas and Special Olympics Team USA lead the athletes in the Special Olympics athlete oath and finally the Flame of Hope was run through the stadium.  Law enforcement officers from across the globe helped usher the torch in through the hands of athletes representing all seven Special Olympics regions of the world.  Finally the torch was lit to mark the start of the Games.

Special Olympics World Summer Games Athens 2011 are now officially under way.  For the next 10 days, from 25 June to 4 July, more than 7,000 Special Olympics Athletes from nearly 180 countries around the world will compete in the largest international multi-sport event of the year, featuring 22 Olympic-type sports.

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Keywords · special olympics · athens · greece · olympic · timothy shriver


Name: Mandy Murphy
Organization: Special Olympics
Email:
Phone: +1-202-824-0227
URL: http://www.specialolympics.org/


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