Special Olympics Kicks Off with Opening Ceremony

Greek President Karolos Papoulias officially declared the official opening of the Athens 2011 World Summer Special Olympics on Saturday evening.  It was a spectacular ceremony staged at the Panathinaikon Stadium, the venue of the first modern 1896 Olympic Games.


From today they will compete in 22 sports, sending the world the message that persons with mental disabilities can become valuable members of the international community.


The three-hour ceremony won high remarks for a spectacular display of fireworks and the simplicity of music and dance performances inspired by ancient Greek mythology and culture.


Fireworks explode over the sky during the opening ceremony of the Athens 2011 World Summer Special Olympics.


The ceremony started with a music performance of volunteers and Special Olympic athletes using ancient Greek type clay urns as musical instruments.

At the end of the performance they threw them down to the ground “back inside the arms of mother earth” in a symbolic representation of breaking down the walls of prejudice against intellectually disabled people.


The flame, which was lit under the Acropolis hill on June 9th and travelled around Greece and neighbour countries, was transferred inside the arena on a “Chariot of the Sun” led by seven torch bearers who represented regions of the globe, children holding balloons and olive tree branches, as well as artists in Greek traditional costumes. The ceremony ended with the performance of the song of the Games by Greek singer Alkistis Protopsalti and Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo, paving the way for the major show the Special Olympic athletes will give in the coming hours during the largest international multi-sport event of the year.


Approximately 40,000 family members, over 2,300 coaches and 25, 000 volunteers stood by their side, while around 3,000 journalists from across the world record the feats of the athletes who represent four million people with intellectual disabilities across the globe.