Spe­cial Olympians bid LA farewell, thanks

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JOHN ROGERS

Thou­sands of ath­letes said good­bye to Los An­ge­les on Sun­day in an emo­tional clos­ing cer­e­mony for the Spe­cial Olympics marked by cheers, tears and pride.

Af­ter more than a week of games, ath­letes from more than 160 coun­tries gath­ered in chairs on the field at Los An­ge­les Me­mo­rial Coli­seum to re­ceive ap­plause and praise for their ef­forts. Plac­ards from their na­tional del­e­ga­tions were brought in along a gi­ant red car­pet.

Some 6,500 ath­letes took part in con­tests rang­ing from weightlift­ing to soc­cer. Although not ev­ery­one won gold, sil­ver or bronze medals, ev­ery com­peti­tor re­ceived a per­for­mance rib­bon and a chance to take to the vic­tory stand fol­low­ing their com­pe­ti­tion. An es­ti­mated 500,000 peo­ple turned out to watch at ven- ues in and around Los An­ge­les.

A Twit­ter post­ing from Los An­ge­les po­lice head­quar­ters thanked the ath­letes “for in­spir­ing us & show­ing what true strength is.”

“These Games have been lifechang­ing and we hope that this will only be a spark that will light the world on fire with the en­thu­si­asm, courage and ac­cep­tance and in­clu­sion for all peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties,” said Pa­trick McCle­na­han, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the games’ or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee.

The col­or­ful Spe­cial Olympics flag was low­ered and pre­sented to a del­e­ga­tion from Aus­tria, where the Win­ter Games will be held in 2017.

A five- minute video showed high­lights of the com­pe­ti­tions and a flame that was lit in the Coli­seum caul­dron at the game open­ing was ex­tin­guished.

The ath­letes were wel­comed on July 25 in a star-stud­ded cer­e­mony at the arena, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics.

“My first visit to LA, but not my last. Def­i­nitely look­ing for­ward to com­ing back,” Ice­landic soc­cer player Thor Hak­l­i­da­son said be­fore the clos­ing event.

“It’s truly been an un­be­liev­able ex­pe­ri­ence and a great time,” he con­tin­ued, adding peo­ple from all over South­ern Cal­i­for­nia have em­braced him and his team­mates ev­ery­where they’ve been.

Com­pe­ti­tions were held in 25 sports, in­clud­ing weightlift­ing, horse­back rid­ing, swimming and soc­cer.

Dur­ing the games, Ja­maica’s Kirk D. Wint waved to the crowd as he stepped out of his wheel­chair and into the start­ing block for his 50-me­ter race. Then he pro­pelled him­self down the track with the use of his hands be­cause he’s un­able to stand. He fin­ished fourth.

In the 100- me­ter com­pe­ti­tion, Olivia Quigley of Brook­field, Wis­con­sin, ran with a red-white- and-blue scarf over her bald head and fin­ished first in her di­vi­sion. Quigley, who has been un­der­go­ing chemo­ther­apy for breast can­cer, is sched­uled for surgery soon.

Away from the com­pe­ti­tions, thou­sands of ath­letes lined up at a med­i­cal cen­ter at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia for the games’ Healthy Ath­letes pro­gram. Be­fore it ended Satur­day, more than 500 peo­ple, in­clud­ing some who could not hear at all, re­ceived needed hear­ing aids. More than 600 re­ceived new pre­scrip­tion glasses and more than 4,000 got new shoes.

The Spe­cial Olympics, which be­gan in 1968, was the brain­child of Pres­i­dent John Kennedy’s sis­ter Eu­nice Kennedy Shriver. That first year’s games in Chicago drew about 1,000 ath­letes from 26 states and Canada.

Or­ga­niz­ers say this year’s Spe­cial Olympics will be the largest sports and hu­man­i­tar­ian event in the world in 2015.

AP

Peo­ple car­ry­ing a Cana­dian ban­ner ar­rive for the clos­ing cer­e­monies of the Spe­cial Olympics World Games in Los An­ge­les, Sun­day, Aug. 2.

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