Special Olympics gets underway in Berlin
The Special Olympics 2023, which features 6,500 athletes with mental and multiple disabilities, got under way with the Opening Ceremony at Berlin’s Olympiastadion on Saturday evening.
Some 50,000 spectators, including 3,000 coaches and officials and 18,000 volunteers, were present at the start of eight days of competition across 26 sports in Germany’s capital city.
The Opening Ceremony, which was broadcast to 190 countries, combined spectacle and pageantry and featured vignettes sharing incredible stories of several athletes from around the globe.
One of the highlights of the Opening Ceremony was the Parade of Athletes, which passed through the Marathon Gate into the stadium. Each delegation was asked to bring water from their home country that was then poured into a watercourse, forming an Olympic River, standing as a symbol for the unity of all of those participating at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023.
The Special Olympics was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of US President John F Kennedy. The summer and winter editions are held quadrennially, with last year’s event in Kazan, Russia cancelled due to safety and economic concerns arising from the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Addressing the athletes from around the globe, Special Olympics Chairman Dr Timothy Shriver said: “We’ve been away from each other for too long. You know what it’s like to be isolated and to be told don’t come out. You are the experts of turning every form of pain and trauma into triumph.
“Your smiles are shining as bright as the stars tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of all of you. To the world, I challenge you, if you are searching for a reason to believe, come to Berlin and see how we overcome.”