LOS ANGELES, USA – Some 6,500 athletes from 165 countries, the most to converge on the city since the 1984 Summer Olympics, made their way to the Pacific metropolis to participate in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games. It is the pinnacle of sporting events for those with intellectual disabilities. The Opening Ceremony was held yesterday to a sold out crowd of over 90,000 people at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The event’s opening message was delivered by the First Lady of the nation, Michelle Obama. “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,” she said.
On hand to sing her self-penned theme song of the Games, “Fly”, was Canadian recording artist Avril Lavigne. It was her first live performance in over a year, as the native of Napanee, Ontario has been chronically disabled by an illness that had most physicians outsmarted, Lyme disease. It was an emotionally triumphant return to form. She sang with beautiful acoustic accompaniment while the torch, arriving from Greece, was passed from athlete to athlete on the coliseum floor.
Other talents participating in the ceremony were Stevie Wonder, O.A.R., Cody Simpson, Nicole Scherzinger, J Balvin, Becky G, Cassadee Pope, and Siedah Garrett with special appearances by Jimmy Kimmel, Eva Longoria, Lauren Potter, Michael Phelps, Collin Farrell, Greg Louganis, and more.
The Special Olympics were the 1968 brainchild of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of former United States President John Kennedy. She said she believed everybody should have a chance to feel special. During the opening ceremony, her daughter, Maria Shriver, addressed the crowd saying, “She was so proud of you and wanted more than anything for you to be respected, valued, appreciated for who you are.”
Rock superstar Avril Lavigne burst onto the scene in 2002 when she was 17 years old. Since then, she has released five studio LPs, won seven JUNO Awards, and sold 35 million albums and 50 million singles worldwide.