World Games Updates
Special Olympics Colombia is one of nearly 100 Programs competing in the 2009 World Winter Games.
Spectacular Opening Ceremony Kicks Off 2009 World Winter Games
A star-studded ensemble and thousands of fans welcomed more than 2,000 athletes from nearly 100 countries on 7 February at the Idaho Center in Nampa, Idaho, for the Opening Ceremony of the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
"Come to the games. Look at our athletes," said Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver to the crowd. "They're in the game. They're racing with all the energy God gave them. They're unafraid. They're brave. Don't just admire them. Don't just be nice to them. Don't you dare pity them. Instead, why not follow them?"
The crowd cheered as the athletes made their way into the stadium, led by the Special Olympics Hellas (Greece) delegation. The 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held in Athens. Special Olympics Team USA, representing the host country, came in last, and the show began.
World renowned, Grammy award-winning saxophonist Kenny G performed for the first time live a song he wrote specifically for the Opening Ceremony. He said his inspiration came from picturing athletes crossing the finish line. Musician Darius Rucker, formerly with Hootie and the Blowfish, also performed. In addition, the ceremony included artists and athletes with intellectual disabilities whose talents are impressive and inspiring by any standard, including clarinetist Sujeet Desai, vocalist Jimmy Demers accompanied by his brother Donny on piano, and a performance by Flame, a band made up of people with developmental and physical disabilities.
Special Olympics Idaho athlete Tera Hathaway led the athletes in taking the athlete oath: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be strong in the attempt."
Tim and Maria Shriver paid homage to their 87-year-old mother, Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who was unable to attend (the first time she has ever missed a World Games in the movement’s 40-plus year history). Alaska Governor Sarah Palin delivered an emotional and personal speech by video about the hope Special Olympics provides for her son, Trig, who was born last year with Down syndrome.
Special Olympics Team USA snowboarder Charles Howard used the Flame of Hope to light the cauldron, which will burn throughout the Games. The flame arrived after a three-month, 37,000-mile Global Law Enforcement Torch Run through 13 cities on five continents.
Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter formally declared the World Games open as the Idaho Center became a sea of waving blue and white scarves (the colors of the Games). On 8 February, the Games begin as the athletes compete in seven sports until the Closing Ceremony on Saturday, 13 February.
"I feel like I'm one of the luckiest men in the world because I had this crazy dream three years ago, and now to see it become a reality with the whole world here in Idaho to share the spirit of Special Olympics is something that will be with me forever," said Jim Grossman, Co-Chairman of the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games Organizing Committee.