They say it only comes once in a lifetime, so take advantage of it. For me, it was two times in a lifetime. The first time served as a volunteer media/security personnel at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, and second attending the opening ceremonies at the Canadian Special Olympics 1998 Summer Games held last week at the Sudbury arena. The theme was “Share in the Spirit.”
The facility was packed with 3000 Special Olympics athletes from across Canada, including over 200 from Ontario.
Sudbury and area residents have read and heard about the Special Olympics for months and now it was a reality. As expected, the first day was chaotic. Laurentian University just buzzing with activity as athletes registered.
“It was pretty wild and exciting, surprisingly enough, things overall have gone rather smoothly,” noted games manager Paul Finley.
Hostess Lynn Mayor welcomed busloads of athletes as they arrived to participate in the Special Olympics. The first question Mayer Jim Gordon was asked: How big is the “Big Nickel?” It was an expected question, said the Mayor, who was a volunteer in the media center. I looked it up and found it was 30-feet high.
The Special Olympics started 30 years ago in Chicago and moved across to Canada shortly after and it has been a going concern ever since held annually in some location.
As the crowd at the arena cheered, athletes marched into the facility proudly displaying their provinces sign and flags, The OPP Motorcycle Team and Sudbury Regional Police Pipe and Drum Band led the parade of athletes.
Emcees TSN’s John Wells and Danie Belieau described the programs participants to a “T”, Welcome addresses were given by Special Olympics chairman Jerry Lougheed Jr.; honourary athlete Larry Roy; Andy Krupski, chairman of the Canadian Special Olympics; John Moodie, assistant RCMP commissioner and president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police; Mayor Jim Gordon; Diane Marleau MPP for Sudbury, and host of others. Honourary coaches for the event were Doug Gilmore, Brian Savage and Mike Foligno. Lighting and flame was done by Edward Woitowich and Dr. Frank Hayden declared the games open for the week’s competition.
Entertainment was furnished by Canadian showcase The WASO Prevocational Choir.