The 2015 Special Olympics World Games –– described by organizers as the largest international gathering in Los Angeles history and the biggest sporting event in the Southland since the 1984 Summer Olympics — have come to a close.
Sunday night’s closing ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum paid tribute to the 6,321 athletes and more than 30,000 volunteers who took part in the event.
Instead of marching in like in the opening ceremony at the Coliseum on July 25, athletes from the 165 competing delegations sat on chairs on the Coliseum’s field, with their shirts creating a colorful mosaic. The ceremony began with placards from the 165 delegations being brought in on the red carpet.
Patrick McClenahan, president and chief executive of LA2015, the Games’ organizing committee, and committee members Dustin Plunkett and Debi Anderson thanked the Special Olympics athletes, fans, volunteers, corporate sponsors, law enforcement and ESPN, which provided the most extensive World Games coverage, for their support.
Select volunteers then entered the Coliseum on the red carpet.
The Special Olympics flag, which was on a pole next to a stage in the stadium’s peristyle end, was lowered by the Los Angeles Police Department Honor Guard. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas gave the flag to Herman Kroll, president of the Austria 2017 Special Olympics Winter Games.
The official closing announcement was made by Special Olympics CEO Janet Froetscher before a crowd announced at 38,358. The organizers of the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games, which will take place in Austria, were introduced, and the Olympic flame in the Coliseum’s cauldron was extinguished just after 7 p.m.
Destiny Sanchez, a 16-year-old from Norwalk who lit the torch in the opening ceremony and competed in track and field, appeared on stage with a lit torch, and was accompanied on the red carpet by LAPD Lt. Clint Dolman, walking the flame out of the Coliseum..
A video was played of great performances during the eight days of competition by Special Olympics athletes in 25 sports. There were 27 best-on- record marks broken in the time or weighed sports of track and field, swimming, cycling, powerlifting and roller skating.
The 2 1/2-hour ceremony also included Loisa Wendorff singing “Let It Go” from the 2013 Disney animated film “Frozen” and musical performances by Carly Rae Jepsen and O.A.R.
In addition to the competition, organizers conducted a Healthy Athletes program that provided screenings for seven conditions for 5,184 athletes from 150 delegations in tents at USC’s McCarthy Quad through Saturday, according to Games officials.
Through Thursday, approximately 4,300 pairs of shoes were distributed, along with about 500 hearing aids and 100 mouth guards. There were also about 600 pairs of glasses prescribed, sized and edged on the spot.
“These Games have been life-changing and we hope that this will only be a spark that will light the world on fire with the enthusiasm, courage and acceptance and inclusion for all people with intellectual disabilities,” McClenahan said.
—City News Service