Los Angeles, California -
First Lady Michelle Obama officially opened the Special Olympics
World Summer Games in Los Angeles to 6500 athletes representing 165
countries. Joy, acceptance, courage, determination, unity and
especially inclusion were the central themes of the world's largest
sports and humanitarian event this year. She praised the athletes
for their courage and determination, noting they were an example to
the millions of people watching the Opening Ceremony in their
"My husband and I, we are so proud
of you, so incredibly proud of you, and we love you all from the
bottom of our hearts," the First Lady said. "You are filling us
with so much hope. Uniting us in a way that nothing else can."
ESPN helped promote inclusion in its
programming by integrating Special Olympics athletes alongside
celebrity talent throughout the three hour live broadcast.
Included with recognized ESPN talent involved in the broadcast from
anchor/reporters Robin Roberts, Lindsay Czarniak, Kevin Negandhi
and Jeremy Schapp, there is also Dustin Plunkett, a four-time
Special Olympics World Games athlete and serving on the World Games
2015 board of directors. Plunkett was hired by ESPN to be a
reporter for Games coverage.
Kansas City Chiefs running back
Jamaal Charles shared a moving reflection on his own experience
with Special Olympics as a young athlete. The personal connection
between Charles, a professional athlete, and the World Games
athletes was especially poignant as he joined Special Olympics
Nigeria athlete Chidalu Onwunzi, Special Olympics Costa Rica
athlete Cindy Fernandez, Special Olympics Cayman Islands athlete
Andrew Smilley and Special Olympics USA athlete Chevi Peters in
leading the 6,500 athletes competing in this year's World Games in
the Special Olympics athlete oath:
Let me win, but if I cannot win,
let me be brave in the attempt.
At the same site as the 1934 and
1984 Olympic Games, nearly 62,000 family and fans in the stands at
the Los Angeles Coliseum witnessed an inspiring show, broadcast
live worldwide by ESPN. Headlined by Stevie Wonder, the
Opening Ceremony included performances by Avril Lavigne, Nicole
Scherzinger, O.A.R., Cody Simpson, J Balvin, Becky G, Cassadee Pope
and 'Reach Up LA' theme song creator Siedah Garrett. Emmy Award
Winner, Debbie Allen directed the show, which was produced by
FiveCurrents. Stars from TV, film and sports also made appearances
including Jimmy Kimmel, Eva Longoria, Lauren Potter, Michael
Phelps, Colin Farrell, Greg Louganis and Stephanie McMahon.
Four Special Olympics Gold Medalists
who are representing host countries from the past four Special
Olympics World Games and are competing in the 2015 Summer World
Games served as flagbearers during Opening Ceremony.
Flagbearers included Special Olympics USA athlete Nikia Davenport,
Special Olympics Hellas Athlete Flora Vermisoglou, Special Olympics
Ireland athlete Oliver Doherty and Special Olympics China athlete
Special Olympics International
Global Messengers David Egan and Nitzeida Galves were involved as
well, holding speaking roles alongside celebrities for the evening.
The show culminated with the Final Leg of the Law Enforcement Torch
Run, with Special Olympics Nigeria athlete Solomon Jegede, Special
Olympics Nepal athlete Pradip Adhikari, Special Olympics Mongolia
athlete Davaa Magvansuren, Special Olympics Iranian athlete Horieh
Golchin, Special Olympics Israel athlete Eliyahu Somer,
Special Olympics Cuba athlete Darianny Urtado and Special
Olympics USA athlete Destiny Sanchez all serving as torchbearers
for the lighting of the Special Olympics World Games cauldron.
Special Olympics Chairman Tim
Shriver energized the crowd with an urgent call to action where
there is a more inclusive world for people with intellectual
disabilities, saying, "This is your moment. This is our
time. The wind is at your backs. You look everywhere
and see nothing but the beauty in the world. How lucky we are
to be with you."
The World Games features 25 sports,
290 events including 23 with Unified Partners and Unified Sports
Experience exhibitions at 23 Venues around Los Angeles, including
locations at UCLA, USC and in Long Beach, California. The Games run
from July 25 - August 2. Visit www.specialolympics.org and