Pyeongchang 2013 Special Olympics Officially Opened

The 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea have been officially opened by President Lee Myung-bak tonight.

Although the weather may have been cold outside of the Yongpyeong Dome, the hearts of more than 4,000 people in attendance were warmed when the than 2,400 athletes from 111 countries paraded into the arena..

The ceremony was held under the theme of “Dream Chorus” and passionately spread the message of “the beautiful dream of humanity towards coexistence and harmony”.

It was one of the most culturally spirited opening ceremonies seen at a Special Olympics World Games.

In scenes of absolute magic, the intellectually disabled athletes smiled, danced and laughed their ways into the Dome on the opening night of the Games.

The official Olympic flag was raised, the official Olympic oaths were read out and the official Olympic torch lighted the Olympic cauldron. The Special Olympics are official.

Nobel Peace Price winner Suu Kyi was among the dignitaries in attendance and was overwhelmed by the human spirit that these World Games capture.

Aung Sun Suu Kyi said that among all the ceremonies she had attended, this was the most “touching and most inspiring ceremony she has ever been to”.

The ceremony was complete with fun, tradition, entertainment, emotions and style.

In true Australian spirit, the team of five athletes sported akubra hats with their green and gold attire. While the New Zealand team passionately demonstrated the “haka”. There was “Gangnam Style” dancing and laughter all around.

But there were no surprises at who received the most raucous reception; the roof was well and truly raised when the South Korean contingency of more than 247 athletes and coaches – the biggest team of the event – entered the building.

The Korean introduction created the loudest cheer and evoked one of the most memorable sporting moments that you could almost ever enjoy, one that can rarely be repeated.

The spirit from all of the participants was remarkable. Teams like Trinidad and Tabago, Pakistan, Sudan, Thailand, Uganda proved that there is no obstacle to big for those living with a disability.

As the Australian Open wrapped up, and the Superbowl heats up, world cricket continues and football all over the world takes place, it has been easy to forget about the approaching Special Olympic Games.

It is an unfortunate oversight, because this eight day long event of Winter Sports and Cultural events are perhaps, as the tagline of the Games goes, “the Most Inspiring Global Sports and Humanitarian Event on Earth.”

Pyeongchang will arguably generate more stories of success and achievement than more than any world event this year as more than 2,000 mentally disabled athletes from 111 countries compete in these games.

Amongst the crowd of famous faces and ambassadors included; South Korean figure skating champion and 2010 gold medalist Kim Yuna, who spoke of her dreams on stage. CEO of the Special Olympics movement Dr. Timothy Shriver and Chinese NBA superstar Yao Ming.

The Games will also provide a venue for global discussions and action on the impact Special Olympics can have on the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.

More than 200 million people worldwide have an intellectual disability, making it the largest disability group worldwide. Intellectual disability crosses racial, ethnic, educational, social and economic lines, and can occur in any family. It is bringing together leaders from across the world to talk about and share strategies to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.

If this opening ceremony is anything to go by, the eight days of competition are going to unravel some amazing sporting moments – while the world can be assured that the 2018 Winter Olympics are in the safe hands of the Koreans.

The figure skating is the first event on the agenda at 9.00am Wednesday, but today also includes some floor hockey, alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and much more. But there is much more than that.

Together. We. Can.