Sunday 4 December 2016

Special Olympics: Stevie Wonder and Nicole Scherzinger set the stage for almost 7,000 athletes from 165 countries

Kevin Doyle in Los Angeles

Published 26/07/2015 | 07:44

They came from 165 countries to form one glorious movement in the LA Coliseum.

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There were plenty of movie stars and politicians, performances from Stevie Wonder and Nicola Scherzinger, speeches from Eva Longoria and the Kennedy descendants and even a video message from President Barack Obama.

But the red carpet was firmly reserved for the real stars: the almost 7,000 athletes.

At the beginning of the show, US talk show host Jimmy Kimmel joked about California's long drought, saying he hoped they brought water.

24 July 2015; Team Ireland's Keith Butler, a member of D6 Special Olympics Club. From Walkinstown, Dublin, waves to supporters as he arrives on the field during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland's Keith Butler, a member of D6 Special Olympics Club. From Walkinstown, Dublin, waves to supporters as he arrives on the field during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Rachel Ryan, a member of Ormond Special Olympics Club, from Templemore, Co Tipperary, during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Thomas Connolly, a member of Nightriders Special Olympics Riding Club, from Coolaney, Co Sligo, during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Robert Byrne, a member of Bray Lakers Special Olympics Club, from Monasterevin, Co Kildare, during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
delay this to the end of transmission not too late but at the end 24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Aoife O’Sullivan, a member of Owenabue Special Olympics Gymnastics Club, from Cork City, with Claudine Keane and her son Robert during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
delay this to the end of transmission not too late but at the end 24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Aoife O’Sullivan, a member of Owenabue Special Olympics Gymnastics Club, from Cork City, with Claudine Keane and her son Robert during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Ashleigh O’Hagan, a member of Lisnagry Special Olympics Club, from Limerick City, Shauna Stewart, a member of St Hilda’s School, from Athlone, Co Westmeath, left, and Anthony Clarke, a member of Bray Lakers Special Olympics Club, from Leixlip, Co Kildare, during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Donal O’Mahoney, a member of Sunbeam House Services, from Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Donal O’Mahoney, a member of Sunbeam House Services, from Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Lisa O’Brien, a member of COPE Foundation Cork, from Charleville, Co Cork, is photographed with Garda sergeant Michaela Moloney, from Henry Street station, Limerick, and a member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Team, during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Ashleigh O’Hagan, a member of Lisnagry Special Olympics Club, from Limerick City, with Garda sargent Michaela Moloney, from Henry Stree station, Limerick, and a member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Team during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Ashleigh O’Hagan, a member of Lisnagry Special Olympics Club, from Limerick City, with Garda sargent Michaela Moloney, from Henry Stree station, Limerick, and a member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Team during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Lydia McGowan, a member of Bray Lakers Special Olympics Club, from Leeson Street, Dublin City Centre, is photographed during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Lydia McGowan, a member of Bray Lakers Special Olympics Club, from Leeson Street, Dublin City Centre, with with Garda sargent Michaela Moloney, from Henry Street station, Limerick, and a member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Team during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Aoife O’Sullivan, a member of Owenabue Special Olympics Gymnastics Club, from Cork City, with Garda sergeant Michaela Moloney, from Henry Street station, Limerick, and a member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Team, during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Rita Quirke, a member of Moore Abbey Special Olympics Club, from Rathangan, Co Meath, with Garda sergeant Michaela Moloney, from Henry Street station, Limerick, and a member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Team, during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Rita Quirke, a member of Moore Abbey Special Olympics Club, from Rathangan, Co Meath, is photographed with Garda sergeant Michaela Moloney, from Henry Street station, Limerick, and a member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Team, during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
24 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Rita Quirke, left, a member of Moore Abbey Special Olympics Club, from Rathangan, Co Meath, Dearbhail Savage, a member of Saddle and Reins Special Olympics Club, from Mowhan, Co Armagh, with Garda sergeant Michaela Moloney, from Henry Street station, Limerick, and a member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Team, during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

"That Olympic flame they're going to light will truly burn forever because we don't have the water to put it out," Kimmel said.

It would be nearly three hours before the flame would be lit under instruction from Michelle Obama who told he crowd: "My husband and I, we are so proud of you, so incredibly proud of you, and we love you all from the bottom of our hearts."

CHEESE: Athletes and coaches gather for a selfie ahead of departing for the Special Olympics in Los Angles last week
CHEESE: Athletes and coaches gather for a selfie ahead of departing for the Special Olympics in Los Angles last week

Sticking with Olympic tradition Greece were the first country to parade through the stadium and find their place in the centre of the pitch.

Then came five Afghani athletes, followed by Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia...Iran, Iraq and finally over an hour after the procession began Team Ireland.

You didn't need to know their names, you didn't need to know what county they were from, you didn't need to know their sport. All you needed to door was look at their faces.

Read more: LA-based stars come out to support Special Olympians

Everybody should have a moment in their life when their face widens to the point of aching, the pain of the stretch marks on their cheeks only adding to the sensation.

Waving hysterically the 88 Irish, led by Colin Farrell, Claudine Keane and John Treacy, took their moment, made more than the most of it and packaged it away in that part of your heart where things can never be forgotten.

"I feel like I'm in heaven," Donal O'Mahoney from Wicklow told independent.ie.

And he wasn't alone.

The games were the brainchild of President John Kennedy's sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who held informal backyard competitions at her home before deciding to take the competition international in 1968.

Her daughter Maria Shriver, addressed the audience, saying: "She was so proud of you and wanted more than anything for you to be respected, valued, appreciated for who you are. Brave, good, kind, solid, and yes, smart human beings."

And then Stevie Wonder arrived on stage.

"You are the ones that will make a difference every single day. Your courage, your desire to make the world better..." he mused before performing 'Fear can't put dreams to sleep'.

The official anthem of this year's Games is 'Reach Up LA' by singer/songwriter Siedah Garret who says she thought about what the athletes would want people watching them to think about.

'I wanted to give power to those words and that expression. It's so amazing watching them do what they do. They have such a can-do attitude. This athletic opportunity shows them "Yes, you can" and they have," she said.

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