A Joyful Ceremony Starts the First Special Olympics 
World Aquatics Invitational

September 11, 2012

A musical show full of aquatics demonstrations, synchronized swimming and diving kicked off the first Special Olympics World Aquatics competition. What followed was the beginning of six days of aquatics competition.

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A Truly Global Event

Again San Juan becomes the home of sports and Special Olympics, for the second time hosting an event for our organization for the second time. All the families, coaches, judges, officials and special guests welcomed more than 300 Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities from 29 countries around the world. 

The opening ceremony was magnificently filled with colors and joy and the presence of Jorge Santini, the major of the city of San Juan; Henry Neumann, the secretary of sports for the city of San Juan; Donna De Varona, Special Olympics Board member and Olympics medalist; Dennis Brueggemann, President and Regional Managing Director of Special Olympics Latin America; and Andy Miyares, Global Messenger of Special Olympics, among other government personalities, participating country consulates and Regional Directors of Special Olympics.   

The Ceremony was held at the San Juan Natatorium and kicked off with the delegation parades of participating countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Venezuela, the United States, Cayman Islands, Italy, Great Britain, Czech Republic, Russia, Canada, Bharat, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, China, Bonaire, Egypt and Lebanon.


Inspiring Words

Special Olympics Global Messenger Andy Miyares thanked the Municipality of San Juan and especially the mayor for making this event possible and praised the public for believing in the abilities of the athletes of Special Olympics.

 

 "We are here today to show the world that we train with courage, determination and dedication as Special Olympics athletes to claim our place in the world of swimmers with our example of how to be successful under our motto: yes we can!" 

 

Meanwhile Donna de Varona, Member of the International Board of Special Olympics and representing the organization, reminded the audience of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the organization, and thanked the mayor of San Juan for his vision and support for Special Olympics.

 

 "I know if the Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver Special Olympics was still with us, she would be so happy to know that her favorite sport, swimming, is taking an important place in the movement. She was always interested in making the sport more accessible to all people.”


"I also thank Mayor Santini for his vision to create and host the First Special Olympics World Aquatics Invitational event.  As a Special Olympics Ambassador, he believed like many others in Eunice´s vision not only for Puerto Rico but for what has become a call to action for the ¨dignity revolution¨ a revolution of inclusion, acceptance, and respect¨ she said.

Guests of San Juan

San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini welcomed those present and spoke of the vision of the Municipality to ensure quality integration for people with intellectual disabilities: "This has been our philosophy, in San Juan have devoted all our efforts and energy building a barrier-free city where people with special needs have access to tools and opportunities to achieve the greatest degree of independence. Let every citizen feel itself a part of its environment ... heard and treated with dignity. " 


The Special Olympics torch was offered to the mayor of San Juan by Puerto Rican athlete Cristina de la Vega, officially kicking off the event. 
The competitions began September 11 with the 800 meter freestyle for men and women.

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