Special Olympics closing ceremony in Shanghai

A spectacular closing ceremony on Thursday evening at the Shanghai stadium marked the end of the Twelfth World Special Olympics. The next rendezvous is in Athens in 2011. Greek Ambassador Michalis Kampanis, Greek SO President Yianna Despotopoulou and young Olympic priestess Maria Kotti received the SO flag. It was Kotti who wept while trying to kindle the SO flame at the Pnyx in Athens when smoke from the previous day’s fire on Mount Parnitha had blotted out the sun. The flame eventually appeared, and set out on its journey around the world via Washington, over the Great Wall to Shanghai to keep up the institution that Eunice Shriver Kennedy founded and to which her son, Dr Timothy P. Shriver, has devoted his life and career. The Greek contingent scored a great success, coming away with 43 medals: 13 gold, 16 silver and 15 bronze. Iraklis Kontos and Yiannis Mysiraklis set a record in sailing, as did Giorgos Papadopoulos in swimming. The Chinese organizers, Despotopoulou told Helbi, gave a splendid welcome to the Greek delegation, of which Natasa Karamanlis, wife of the Greek PM and an SO volunteer since 1997, was a member. During the Games the dreaded typhoon arrived, missing Shanghai, though causing 18 deaths and untold damage. Rain and strong winds hit Shanghai but the Games continued, and the skies cleared for the final day.