Special Olympics test events launched in Greece

10:53, May 31, 2010      

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Thousands of Greeks and other citizens of the world, gathered in the Greek capital on Sunday evening to celebrate the launch of the test events of the Athens 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

The 23rd Greek national special games which will be held here until June 3 are a big rehearsal ahead of the major athletic event which will be hosted in the city next summer.

At least 1,600 athletes, coaches and escorts from 20 countries and regions worldwide, including a 41-member Chinese delegation take part in the test events this week.

More than 10,000 athletes, coaches and escorts from at least 180 countries and regions are expected to attend next year's Special Olympics.

"These test events are a prelude of the big celebration to be held in Athens in 2011. These Games will contribute to our efforts on creating a society which will integrate people with intellectual disability and special skills without restrictions," said President of the Athens 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games Organizing Committee Joanna Despotopoulou.

Joanna welcomed the athletes and their guests at the Olympic Stadium, where the 2004 Olympic Games were held.

She noted that the strength and pride of these athletes are a source of inspiration for all.

Similar messages were sent by Greek President Karolos Papoulias, Chairman of Special Olympics International Dr. Timothy P. Shriver and City of Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis.

Following a parade of the teams, Greek Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism George Nikitiadis announced opening of the games.

"These games will prove that despite the difficult economic situation for Greece at the moment, this country will keep meeting its obligations towards the international community," Nikitiadis stressed.

Expressing the enthusiasm of the Special Olympics International Movement, its vice president Lee Todd said the fact that the Special Olympics athletes will compete in venues created for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games proves that these athletes deserve the best.

The opening ceremony continued with the hoisting of the Special Olympics flag and then two Special Olympic athletes took the oath "Let me win! But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt", before the Flame of Hope reached the Olympic Aquatic Center.

The celebration closed with a swimming demonstration by Greek Special Olympics athletes, a synchronized swimming demonstration and a song and dance event.



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