On the 29th of January in the snow covered mountains of the Republic of Korea, thousands of people gathered in the Yongpyong Dome near the Alpensia ski resort, to help open the official start of the 10th Annual Special Olympics World Winter Games and celebrate a full week of special competitions that highlighted the life-changing power of winter sports.
Over 100 different national delegations from countries around the world took part in the opening ceremonial parade of Special Olympics athletes in front of a capacity crowd at the Dome in preparation for the Korean “Dream Chorus” themed ceremony which was designed to spotlight a Korean-culturally inspired theme of humanity moving towards peaceful co-existence and harmony. Many world famous sports and entertainment celebrities joined in the celebration to see current Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye, who will become Korea's first female president, in attendance to welcome the nearly 3,000 Special Olympics athletes from around the world to the Republic of Korea for the 10th edition of annual winter games for the handicapped and disabled.
Secretary General of the U.N. Ban Ki Moon recorded an announcement that was presented on video saying that the Korean-hosted Special Olympics World Winter Games will further the goals of advancing dignity and opportunities of all participants. Live remarks were also presented on video by several other notable attendees, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Chairperson of the National League for Democracy in Burma (Myanmar), who walked onto the stage in the Yongpyong Dome while hand-in-hand with Special Olympics athlete and self-proclaimed “global messenger” Ariel Ary of Costa Rica; who shouted to the crowd that "it is the spirit that overcomes" to everyone lucky enough to be in attendance at the premier Special Olympics event.
Standard opening elements of the anticipated event like the torch lighting, the reciting of the Special Olympics athlete’s oath, and the official declaration of the beginning of the Games all took place on a specially created stage that was decorated with igloos and snowflakes to depict a representation of the city of PyeongChang, which will also be the host city of the 23rd edition of the “regular” Olympic Winter Games in 2018. The Opening Ceremony produced by the internationally acclaimed South Korean composer and director ByeongWoo, took a full three hours to deliver an outpouring of welcome to the thousands of special needs athletes who gathered this year to compete with each other on the world stage.
The 2013 edition of the Special Olympics World Winter Games in PyeongChang are scheduled to last from the 29th of January to the 5th of February, and will feature seven different categories of winter sports including alpine skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, speed skating, figure skating, floor hockey, and a new Special Olympics demonstration sport called floorball. This 2013 edition of the Special Olympic Games are dedicated to “the unity of overcoming the differences of region, borders, political belief, age, race and religion.” More information on this year’s games is available at the 2013 World Games official website at 2013sopoc.org.