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2015 Special Olympics World Games Open on The Eve of The 25th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act

ESPN broadcasts live to a sold-out crowd of 62,000 family and fans in the stands at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Press Release

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 living rooms.

"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 Xing Le.

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 www.la2015.or for more information.

Contacts

Christy White
Special Olympics
+1 (202) 738-8511
cwhite@specialolympics.org

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.  Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance.  Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 4.5 million athletes in 170 countries.  With the support of more than 1.3 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 81,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including the Christmas Records Trust, the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics, The Coca-Cola Company, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN, Microsoft, Lions Clubs International, Toys"R"Us, Mattel, P&G, Bank of America, Essilor Vision Foundation, the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation, Finish Line, The Safeway Foundation, and Safilo Group.  Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics, fb.com/specialolympics, youtube.com/specialolympicshq, instagram.com/specialolympics and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.