El Segundo High School

Column: LA84 kicks off Special Olympics Word Games

When I was in elementary school, I would anticipate the hundredth day of school because that was the day that ‘zero the hero’ came to visit my class. I can remember waiting and being so excited, and wanting the days to expedite. This is exactly how I have been feeling since Thursday, April 16, which marked the 100 days until the Special Olympics World Games launch. The Games start on July 25, and go through Aug. 2.

A crowd of people gathered together on April 16 for a kickoff ceremony of the Special Olympics Word Games. They met at the LA84 building. Recognize the name? Probably not, if you are anywhere near my age. But for those adults out there you may recognize this building because it is where the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics were launched. Of the two times, so it was fitting to launch the 2015 Special Olympics World Games at this historical venue, providing a backdrop of the Britt House, a restored Colonial Revival-style mansion, opening to a bucolic, trellised garden.

Former Special Olympics athlete and incredibly talented public speaker, Dustin Plunkett, gave the opening remarks at the ceremony. Dustin has an incredible act of giving back, and he is now a board member of the Special Olympics, and he is the Special Olympics International Global Messenger, which means he recruits coaches and athletes for the games.

After Dustin spoke, former mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa discussed that there are going to be 7,000 athletes competing in 25 sports. Also, half a million fans from all over the world will be attending to cheer on the athletes.

The President and Chief Executive Officer of the games, Patrick McClenahan shared that the games will be the largest sports humanitarian event in the world in 2015. He discussed that the logo for the games was designed, pro-bono, by Davis Elen Agency. The logo (pictured below) is of an athlete “striking a pose” as a celebratory figure, inside a circle of acceptance.

 

It signifies that “Los Angeles is a city full of movie stars and all stars, but in 2015, The Special Olympics athletes will be the true stars.” The plethora of various colors on the logo represents the diversity of the athletes coming from 170 different countries!

The presentation of the bronze, silver, and gold medals was especially exciting.

The medals were gorgeous, and hang on multi-colored ribbons, again, to represent the diversity. In a touching display, former Olympians put medals around the necks of Special Olympics participants standing on pedestals, simulating a winner’s podium.  The Bronze medal was presented by Julie Foudy, US Soccer Olympian (two gold medals in women’s soccer); the Silver medal was presented by US swimming Olympian, John Naber (four gold medals in swimming); and the Gold was presented by US diving Olympian Greg Louganis (four gold medals in diving).

Just to mention some history, The Special Olympics was found in 1958 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The Special Olympics is a global movement to empower those with intellectual disabilities to feel accepted and valued in their communities. Personally, I believe this will help lead the world to a better, more respectable, and inclusive society for everyone.

Get excited, because the Opening Ceremonies will take place on Saturday, July 25 (100 days), at The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and it will be televised by ESPN worldwide. Go to LA2015.org to learn more about the games. Let the 100-day anticipation begin!