The 2015 Special Olympics World Games officially opened with a spectacular and emotional opening ceremony Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Artists, celebrities, politicians, volunteers and especially the athletes came together to celebrate the love of sport and the importance of equality.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics in 1968 to give special needs individuals a chance to be a part of something bigger and better. For over 40 years, the organization has improved the lives of thousands of people who overcome their disabilities.
The Special Olympics Opening Ceremony opened with host Robin Roberts speaking to the large crowd at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Thousands of fans were in the stands to enjoy the night that was filled with plenty of excitement. It began with the band O.A.R. singing their S.O. World Games theme song “Reach Up L.A.”.
The parade of athletes began with Greece entering first into the stadium. Greece is known to enter first as their country was the origin of the first modern Olympics. 6,500 athletes from 165 made their way into the Coliseum with the United States being the last to march in as the host country.
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti welcomed the athletes to Los Angeles on a perfect day to open the games in the city. Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria came out with a special Olympics athlete to share the five words of the organization: acceptance, courage, determination, unity and joy.
The music resumed with Latin American singer J Balvin and Cassidy Pope singing for the athletes that were down on the field. Special Olympics chairman Tim Shriver came out to show his total support and thrill to have the games in Los Angeles for a second time since 1972.
American Olympians Michael Phelps and Michelle Kwan joined several Special Olympics athletes to carry in the Special Olympics flag that was raised by special members of the L.A.P.D. color guard.
As is common with Los Angeles, the music had to continue with Stevie Wonder giving the crowd his legendary singing at the piano. He was followed by Tim Harris, a special needs individual, and owner of Tim’s Place restaurant had the honor of introducing First Lady Michelle Obama who opened the 2015 World Games.
Canadian superstar Avril Lavigne returned to the stage for the first time in over a year to sing her song called “Fly” that she specially made for the Special Olympics. While she went into her song, the “Flame of Hope” made its way into the Coliseum by athletes who ran it down the red carpet where at the end, Destiny Sanchez lit the torch that was followed with a barrage of fireworks signifying the opening of the World Games.
A different rendition of “Reach Up L.A.” was sung by recording artist Siedah Garrett who was joined by dancers on the red carpet. Fireworks continued to lit off around the top of the Coliseum with everyone getting into the fun of the night.
Sunday would mark the first day of the nine days of competition that would give every one of the 6,500 athletes to show what they can do best.