Communities

Working with our neighbors to build a strong community

Special Olympics World Games

More than 150 community members from the surrounding University Park and Health Sciences campuses attended the USC Civic Engagement section at the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony on Saturday, July 25.

USC Civic Engagement hosts more than 150 community members from the surrounding University Park and Health Sciences campuses at the opening ceremony.

Participants from Youth-LA Workforce attend the festivities with USC Government Relations staff

Participants from Youth-LA Workforce attend the festivities with USC Government Relations staff

Fireworks light up the sky as the Special Olympics World Games draw to a close

Fireworks light up the sky as the Special Olympics World Games draw to a close

Take nearly 7,000 athletes, add tens of thousands of cheering supporters and toss in a good helping of Olympic spectacle. Put it all together in a storied venue like the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on a warm California evening, and you’ve got a Saturday to remember.

The Special Olympics World Games opening ceremonies marked yet another time that the historic Coliseum – host of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics – welcomed competitors from around the world.

Of course it wouldn’t be an LA event without a big name or two. TV personality Jimmy Kimmel greeted the crowd with a short monologue. Mayor Eric Garcetti was followed on stage by Eva Longoria. Olympians Nadia Comaneci, Michelle Kwan, Greg Louganis and Michael Phelps joined four Special Olympians to carry the Special Olympics flag. Oscar De La Hoya introduced headliner Stevie Wonder.

The biggest star of the night wasn’t a star at all: Michelle Obama, who called the competitors an inspiration.

“You’re filling us with so much hope, and you’re uniting us in a way that nothing else can,” the first lady told the cheering crowd.

The traditional parade of nations – led by Greece, home of the first Olympic Games – had nearly 7,000 athletes from 165 countries making colorful entries to sometimes boisterous fans, ending with a rousing welcome for the home team.

Maria Shriver — a Trojan mom twice over — remembered her own mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics in 1968.

“Tonight she is so alive in this Coliseum … She is alive in the spirit of the Special Olympics,” said Shriver, who was introduced by her brother, Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver.

The evening wrapped up with singer Siedah Garrett performing “Reach Up LA,” which she wrote for the games. The Coliseum’s Olympic torch burned bright as fireworks lit up the sky.

By David Medzerian

More stories about Special Olympics