The Flame of Hope Returns to Athens
June 26, 2011
On the final day before the official start of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, the Flame of Hope® arrived in Athens after visiting 146 towns and communities throughout Greece during the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR)®.
Special Olympics Board Members, Global Ambassadors, and International Global Messengers, along with a U.S. Presidential Delegation led by Dr. Jill Biden, gathered atop the Acropolis of Athens to celebrate the completion of the Flame’s journey through Greece.
The Torch Run team, comprised of 101 Law Enforcement Officers from around the world, 10 Special Olympics athletes, and other support personnel proudly shared the story of their journey and gathered to honor and thank the Games Organizing Committee Chairman, Joanna Despotopoulou, for her leadership and support of the Games. Despotopoulou was presented with the original Flame of Hope, which was lit June 9th in a ceremony held at the Sacred Sight of Pnyx in Athens. She then entrusted it to the Presidential Guard who will keep it overnight, prior to Opening Ceremony.
Antonio L. Williams, an LETR running team leader and member of the Final Leg Executive Council, described his experience of the Torch Run as “Simply amazing. It was incredible to see people from all walks of life come together with one common goal of building communities, overcoming language barriers, gathering people together, and forming new relationships.”
Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Inc. and Special Olympics Board Member Muhtar Kent spoke of Coke’s proud role as the founding partner of Special Olympics. During the World Games, Coca-Cola will provide commemorative packaging and retail displays in their top five retailers in Greece, along with an awareness campaign featuring Coke employees and Special Olympics athletes that will be circulated through print, radio, online and television ads. Coke will give a portion of the proceeds from the sale of commemorative packaging to Special Olympics and will also construct a Coca-Cola Happiness House in athlete villages and at the OAKA festival area. In addition, the beverage company will provide over 2 million servings of Coca-Cola products to athletes, families and volunteers during the Games. “We are here to spread dignity, optimism and inclusion all around the world,” said Kent.
Special Olympics Chairman and CEO, Tim Shriver, introduced the newest class of Special Olympics International Global Messengers, who will serve a four-year term as leaders and spokespersons for the Special Olympics Movement. The newest class includes Neha Naik (India), Andy Miyares (USA), Zakaria Aquadim (Morocco), Caroline Verdenal (France), Anton Silos (Philippines), Kristina O’Neal (USA), Deon Namiseb (Namibia), Minmin Huang (China), Ariel Ary (Costa Rica), Olga Dasoura (Greece), Matthew Williams (Canada) and Wei Chieh Chen (Taiwan).
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, also greeted the new class of Global Messengers, along with basketball star and Special Olympics Global Ambassador, Yao Ming, and Special Olympics Board members and supporters, Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci.
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