Closing Ceremonies of the Special Olympics in Los Angeles
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News August 02, 2015
Athletes from around the world said goodbye to what was a emotional closing ceremony for the Special Olympics Sunday with cheers, tears and pride.
With a week of games, athletes from more than 160 countries gathered at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to receive praise from their national delegations for their efforts.
Athletes took part in contests ranging from Judo to soccer, some won gold, silver and bronze medals but every competitor received a performance ribbon and a chance to take to the victory stand following their competition. It was estimated around 500,000 people turned out to watch at venues in and around Los Angeles.
“These Games have been life-changing 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 short video highlighted the competitions and a flame that was lit in the Coliseum cauldron at the game opening was extinguished.
The games started on July 25 in a star-studded opening 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.
Outside the arena, 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, 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.