Athletes, volunteers and friends of the Special Olympics gathered at the Pnyx hill overlooking the Acropolis in central Athens on Thursday, June 9, for the lighting ceremony of the Flame of Hope. The event follows in the tradition of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Flame. In the case of the Flame of Hope, the torch will be carried by Special Olympics athletes and police officers around the world with a message of hope for a better future. The flame will return to Athens for the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2011 on June 25.
The event, which runs to July 4, will see some 7,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities from 170 countries competing in 22 Olympic-type sports. While tickets are required for entrance to the Special Olympics opening and closing ceremonies at the Panathenaic Stadium, known as the Kallimarmaro, access to all sports events is free.
The Special Olympics movement was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968. Since then, it has grown into a global network which involves approximately 3.7 million athletes participating in an average of 130 daily events around the world.
For more information, visit www.athens2011.org.