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September 12, 2012 | SOI General: Headquarters

A Different Kind of Opening Ceremony

By Will Schermerhorn

The natatorium during the Torch Run ceremony.

Special Olympics global events often have big opening ceremonies with lots of music and speeches, a focus on our athletes with intellectual disabilities and a big dose of local pride for the host. Today's opening ceremony for the World Aquatics Invitational in San Juan had all of those things, but with a comfortably smaller scale. Everything happened around the deck of a big pool. A steady breeze rippled the water. The local pride came through first in the clean lines of the natatorium, open to the tropical air on three sides and grand in every sense. Then came the dancers, breathtakingly energetic young people, and the colorful, choreographed swimming and high diving. The speeches were of Special Olympics' values of acceptance, achievement, respect and health. They were interesting, and they ended before they went too long. And then came a surprise: police motorcycles with screaming sirens drove into the natatorium to deliver the torch to mark the beginning of the games. And then, more local pride in the form of live music, loud, tropical and impossible to resist. Soon after the music was done came another sound: three splashes of swimmers in the first heats of the week.

About Will Schermerhorn: Will is Special Olympics' director of web products, and the father of a Special Olympics athlete in Virginia.
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