Special Olympics: Steinmeier opens Special Olympics World Games in Berlin

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened the Special Olympics World Games.

Special Olympics: Steinmeier opens Special Olympics World Games in Berlin

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened the Special Olympics World Games. In front of around 50,000 visitors in the Berlin Olympic Stadium, the head of state welcomed the athletes and thanked everyone for the successful celebration before declaring the games open.

Around 7,000 athletes from 176 nations - 14 delegations had to cancel their planned participation - will compete in 26 sports until June 25th. The World Games of the Mentally and Multiple Disabled are the largest multisport event in Germany since the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

In the presence of Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and international political guests, Steinmeier thanked those who had prepared the event. Then eight runners ran a lap of the stadium with the "Flame of Hope", the flame of the Special Olympics, before the fire of the games was lit at 11:17 p.m. The more than three-hour celebration, which began with the entry of the delegations, ended with a show by the world-famous Blue Man Group and fireworks.

Spectators celebrate Parade of Nations

The approximately 110-minute parade led athletes and team leaders to their seats through the marathon gate over the blue tartan track of the Olympic Stadium to thunderous applause from the visitors. Besides the German athletes, the 20-strong delegation from Ukraine received the loudest applause. As a sign of solidarity, each nation had brought water from their homeland, which was poured into the water basin surrounding the show stage installed in the middle of the stadium when they moved in.

After the parade, Berlin's Governing Mayor Kai Wegner (CDU), Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) and the President of Special Olympics Germany, Christiane Krajewski, and athletes' spokesman Mark Solomeyer welcomed all participating nations. Timothy Shriver, President of Special Olympics International and son of Special Olympics Founder Eunice Shriver-Kennedy, offered opening remarks for the following week.

Basketball star Dirk Nowitzki, who is a supporter of the games as "Friends of the Games", greeted the athletes together with athlete Hanna Joy Atkinson. The 44-year-old had already visited the German basketball team in the morning and was impressed by their performance.

The welcomes were rounded off by emotional show acts before Steinmeier declared the games open. The touching celebration ended with the official games song "Are you ready?" by Norwegian pop duo Madcon and fireworks just after 11.30pm.

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