CULTURE

From the Pnyx to Shanghai via the White House

Exciting news has arrived in the form an e-mail to Yianna Despotopoulou, the president of Special Olympics Hellas, that the flame which was lit at the Pnyx in Athens on June 29 and is now being carried around Europe, is to arrive on July 26 by special flight in Washington DC, where it will be taken to the White House. In a ceremony honoring the spirit of the Special Olympics movement and the courage of its athletes, the «Flame of Hope» for the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games was lit on June 29 in Athens, officially launching the Global Law Enforcement Torch Run. Despotopoulou has received an invitation to attend a ceremony hosted by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush in the Rose Garden, to be broadcast live to Greece via ERT at 11.30 a. m. Washington time. At 12.30 p. m., just after the ceremony, the flame relay runners will run along the South Lawn to the National Mall for photo opportunities at the Capitol, at the Friendship Arch in Chinatown and at the Chinese Embassy, where the ambassador will hold a reception, followed by a VIP dinner that evening given by Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver. From Washington, the flame is to go to China, where it will be taken along the Great Wall, arriving in Shanghai for the 2007 Special World Summer Games from October 2-11. July 26 is also the anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a significant date for all people with disabilities and those who care for them. At the White House ceremony, Special Olympics Hellas President Yianna Despotopoulou is to be a guest as head of the flame-lighting ceremony and president of the successful Athens bid for the 2011 Special Olympics. Natasa Karamanli, wife of the Greek prime minister, has also been invited to the White House ceremony, along with Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos and Secretary General for Sports Stavros Douvis. Kathimerini columnist Helbi (Eleni Bistika) will also be there to watch when, for the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, the Olympic Flame is received at the White House by the US president. The flame is the flame of hope for a better world for those with mental disabilities but who are athletes in body and spirit.