Opening of Special Olympics in Athens
The opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games will take place on 25 June at the Panathinaikon Stadium in Athens in the presence of Karolos Papoulias, President of the Hellenic Republic, Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Timothy P. Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics. The 2011 Special Olympics will gather more than 7,500 athletes from over 180 countries, competing in a total of 22 sports.
In her opening address, Commissioner Vassiliou will underline the importance of respect for diversity and inclusion, the values at the heart of the Special Olympics.
On 26 June, at the OAKA Olympic Aquatic Centre, Commissioner Vassiliou will present awards to the winners of the swimming disciplines. That evening, she will participate in a reception hosted by President Papoulias.
The first Special Olympics World Summer Games took place in 1968 with around 1,000 athletes from 26 US states and Canada. In addition to the 7,000 athletes taking part in this year's event, around 2,500 coaches, 3,000 technical officials, 25,000 volunteers, 40,000 family members and thousands of spectators are expected to follow the games, which will last until 4 July.
The ceremony will be broadcast live on Greek television and via the European Broadcasting Union at 20.00.
The European Commission has supported the European Special Olympics Movement with €10 million over the past two years, of which around €5.3 million will be used to finance the Special Olympics World Games in Athens.
To find out more:
Androulla Vassiliou's website:
Special Olympics website: