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Flame for Abu Dhabi 2019 Special Olympics World Games lit in Athens

(Xinhua)    11:01, February 28, 2019
Flame for Abu Dhabi 2019 Special Olympics World Games lit in Athens
A Greek girl playing the role of an ancient Greek High Priestess passes the Flame of Hope for the Special Olympics World Games to Khalfan Al Mazrouei, Managing Director of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, in Athens, Greece, on Feb. 27, 2019. The Flame of Hope which will be burning for the upcoming Abu Dhabi 2019 Special Olympics World Games was lit on Wednesday at Zappeion exhibition hall in the center of Athens. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

ATHENS, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Flame of Hope which will be burning for the upcoming Abu Dhabi 2019 Special Olympics World Games was lit on Wednesday at Zappeion exhibition hall in the center of Athens.

A few steps from the marble stadium which hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896, the flame ignited during a ritual ceremony held in the tradition of the Lighting of the Flame for the Olympic Games.

A Greek girl playing the role of an ancient Greek High Priestess lit the flame out of a concave mirror using the sun's rays.

After a music and dance performance by Greek Special Olympic athletes, she lit the torch with the Flame and handed it over to organizers of the March 14-22 Games, kicking off a torch relay with the participation of children and law enforcement officers until the opening ceremony.

Over 7,000 athletes will compete in 24 sports during the forthcoming games.

Founded in 1968 the Special Olympics movement offers to millions of people with intellectual disabilities across the world the opportunity to display their strength, courage, persistence and win the hearts and minds of people, breaking stereotypes.

"It is the first time that the World Games are organized in the Arab world. We are very happy. Everybody is thrilled, everybody is very enthusiastic," Dionisis Kodelas, President of Special Olympics Hellas, told Xinhua.

"This year it will be the largest sports and humanitarian event in the entire world. We are committed to make it an unforgettable experience for every single person," Khalfan Al Mazrouei, Managing Director of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said addressing the ceremony.

The Flame of Hope burning for the 2019 Games symbolizes the strength of human spirit, inclusion, diversity and is spreading the message of the Olympic and Special Olympics ideals such as peace and friendship, speakers said.

"Let's send a message to the entire world that sports are not about records, victories or medals. Sports are about participation and brotherhood," Giorgos Vassiliadis, Greek Deputy minister of culture and sports said, delivering a speech.

"In a time when there is so much dividing people around the world, our World Games offer an opportunity for all of us to come together, to celebrate differences and unify in the spirit of respect and inclusion," added Figure Skating Olympic Medallist Michelle Kwan, Representative of the chairman and members of Board of Special Olympics International.

"It is our hope that our vision of acceptance will stem from Athens and Abu Dhabi and take root in all nations throughout the world," concluded Ayman Abdel Wahab, President and Managing Director of Special Olympics of the Middle East and North Africa region.


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(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Hongyu)

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