President meets Athens Special Olympics officials

As the flag unfurled in the president’s office, one could almost hear the cheers ringing out in the Shanghai stadium that hosted the Special Olympics this year as the banner was passed to Athens, the next organizer of the Special Olympics in 2011, represented by Gianna Despotopoulou, head of the organizing committee, and Greek Ambassador to China Michalis Kambanis and Greece’s own Special Olympics champions. The latter included gymnast Mary Kotti, who accompanied Despotopoulou and Culture Minister Michalis Liapis to the Presidential Palace on November 15 to present President Karolos Papoulias with the flag, which will stay at the palace until the day it is raised in Athens’s Olympic Stadium. The Games will broaden the public’s understanding that these children with mental disabilities, but who have other special abilities, are entitled to the same rights and opportunities as other children. It was in that spirit that the president was invited to be patron of a campaign to inform Greeks that through sport people with mental handicaps can take their rightful place in society. They also invited him to attend celebrations marking the 21st anniversary of the Special Olympics in Greece on February 14, 2008 at the Athens Concert Hall for the official signing of Athens’s contract to hold the next Special Olympics. Also attending will be the president of the International Special Olympics Committee Dr Timothy P. Shriver and the founder of Special Olympics International Eunice Kennedy Shriver.