Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies
Did you always want to attend the opening ceremonies of a world-class sporting event? Me too. And, I finally did it this past weekend in Athens, Greece when I attended the opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics World Summer Games (I am a guest of longtime Special Olympics sponsor P&G)!
I sat in the historic Panthinaikon Olympic Stadium (built almost 25 centuries ago and the site of the first modern Olympic Games: WOW!!)– with Heather of The Spohrs are Multiplying and Kat of The SITS Girls as we cheered on over 7,000 athletes from almost 180 countries. It was surreal and beautiful.
In the presence of 25,000 Special Olympics volunteers and tens of thousand more family members and friends beaming with pride, I was humbled by the greatness of it all.
A highlight for me was seeing Team USA in the parade of athletes.
There was a beautiful dedication to Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. This is the first Special Olympics World Games that she is not attending (*sniff*).
I’m sure Mrs. Shriver would be proud of her son Timothy, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, who gave a rousing speech calling for a “Dignity Revolution” that celebrates millions of abilities. Timothy Shriver has told me in the past that his dream is that there will never be a school where every child doesn’t have the chance to play on a unified team.
Walking in the parade of athletes showing their support were professional athletes Yao Ming, Dikembe Mutombo, Michelle Kwan (Special Olympics board member) , Nadia Comenici, Bart Conner (Special Olympics Board of Directors Vice-Chair), and Donna de Varona.
Stevie Wonder had the athletes and spectators on their feet arm-in-arm swaying and dancing to his live performance. But most memorable was his touching words about Eunice Kennedy Shriver, “Her vision has helped the world appreciate the value of all human beings. Eunice made us understand that we are all special. Our dreams are only limited by our vision.”
Boy, do I feel like one lucky woman today to be able to be here. My hope is that by sharing these stories from Athens, I can help bring attention to Special Olympics. Yesterday a mom of a Team USA athlete– who also is an assistant coach– told me her team has a hard time recruiting assistant coaches and hopes that by bringing greater awareness to their programs it will help bring resources to them and other teams.
I sure do hope so too!
This post has been sponsored by Procter & Gamble as part of their Thank You, Mom program. With just a click of your mouse, P&G will donate $1 for every “Like” and comment (up to $250,000) on their Thank You, Mom Facebook page. That money will go to support Team USA’s trip to Athens. My travel and accommodations to Athens has been provided for by P&G but all opinions are my own, and I think P&G is a champ for supporting the Special Olympics.
All photos lovingly borrowed from the Special Olympics photo stream on Flickr.