It was a week of triumph, a week of joy, a week of winners despite loses. It was the week of the Special Olympics World Games. It was a week where Los Angels, America, and the world took a giant step forward toward inclusion of all.
I think the photo story tells it best, as athletes from 165 countries in the world arrived at Los Angeles International Airport and began the pre-journey spending three days in host towns from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, and from the Beach to Palm Springs. They then moved into their athlete villages at USC and UCLA, and began competing in 26 events. Volunteers poured in, and over 500,000 fans in the stands grew. Social media went wild with posts from fans out supporting these athletes with intellectual disabilities. The venues ranges from Long Beach, to Griffith Park, to USC to UCLA. The fans were young and old. Not to mention, the festivities created an ambiance of joy and celebration.
Special programs abounded, family programs, the healthy athlete village (where athletes get exams for their feet, physicals, hearing, vision and dentistry). Cheerleaders lit up the sidelines, and there were festivals with performers including DJs and cultural performances, and we saw unified sports where those with and without intellectual disabilities competed together in fun contests. And of course there were the awards ceremonies! I really enjoyed walking around, seeing smiling athletes and supporters, many of them wearing their home countries name on their T-shirt to show pride. There was a car with writing on it from all of the athletes! One of my favorite places was where Coke sponsored a fountain that served each country’s “Coke.” America’s was Coke, but it was interesting to understand other cultures tastes.
The events were very fun. Since my town hosted Macedonia and Barbados, I mostly watched them. They were so good at communicating with each other. Whenever someone would score, Macedonia would jump up with joy and cheer. They even had a special dance and song to do. The part that was really amazing was that even when the opposing team would score, everyone would still cheer and be supportive. I thoroughly enjoyed watching all of the athletes play their hearts out, but I mostly enjoyed how kind they were to one and other. Each athlete not only supported their teammates, but they supported the other teams as well. I assume that the athletes have made many friends from all over the world. It is so amazing to see everyone try their very best, and even if they don’t achieve their ultimate goal, seeing them be happy anyways. It is a concept that should be taught to everyone, to appreciate everything, be thankful, be helpful, and be supportive. If the whole world were to have the character of these athletes, the world would be a better place.
I wish the athletes luck in their lives, and I would like to thank them for coming to our hometown. It was an incredible experience to get to work one on one with these athletes and to see them play. It has inspired me to work harder in my sports because I know that even if I don’t get first place, knowing that I tried my best is the only thing that really matters.
The World games held its closing ceremonies over the weekend with an emotional closing video; you can watch it here (http://www.la2015.org/blog/closing-ceremonies-emotional-film-rise-up-la-2015).
On behalf of Los Angeles, I salute these incredible athletes, being a part of the World Games has been a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we are all blessed and the better for it.