SHANGHAI, People’s Republic of China – Fifteen Alaskans attended Special Olympics World Summer Games Opening Ceremonies as honored guests. In Shanghai Stadium 5,800 performers entertained 80,000 spectators on hand to welcome Special Olympics athletes from around the world. The performance included dancers, musicians, celebrities, light shows and fireworks.
Athletes and guests were entertained by international celebrities, including Yo-Yo Ma, Jackie Chan, Colin Farrell, NBA star Yao Ming, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. The show included a tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics and tireless advocate for people with intellectual disabilities.
Throughout the week, Alaska’s honored guests will cheer on athletes and participate in forums on serving the needs of those with intellectual disabilities. Honored guests include:
Craig Gales and spouse, Lori. Gales is Chairman of the Board of Special Olympics Alaska.
Ken Privatsky and spouse, Kathy. Ken Privatsky is Chair-Elect of the Board of SO-AK. Kathy Privatsky is a long-time volunteer working in the Healthy Athletes program.
Alaska Speaker of the House, John Harris and spouse, Nicole. Harris is a member of the board of SO-AK.
John Walsh, Secretary of the board of SO-AK.
Representative Bob Lynn.
Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan and spouse, Terri. Monegan is in China in support of law enforcement official Terry Vrabec, a runner in the final leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Vern Hall, donor and avid fan of SO-AK.
Alaska Senator Lesil McGuire will join the group later in the week. McGuire is a board member. Also in Shanghai are Special Olympics staff members Jim Balamaci and Nicolle Egan and volunteers Michelle Egan and Scott Minor. Balamaci is President and CEO of SO-AK; Nicolle Egan is Vice-President and COO. Michelle Egan is volunteer media liaison and Minor is a photographer.
Four Alaska athletes and one coach are participating in the World Games. Competition begins October 3 and runs until October 11.
Special Olympics Alaska is an accredited program of Special Olympics Inc., a global organization that has provided sports training and competition to people with intellectual disabilities since 1968. In Alaska, Special Olympics serves more than 1,500 athletes in 18 communities statewide through local community training programs.
For more information about Special Olympics programs and volunteer opportunities, call SO-AK at (907) 250-9535.