2018 USA Games – Day 1
Let’s start at the beginning, and for Special Olympics, that means Opening Ceremonies. Sunday July 1st marked the beginning of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. Husky Stadium at the University of Washington played host to the biggest party in town.
Team Massachusetts made their way from the dorms on the west side of campus through a miles-long high five tunnel created by volunteers from the community, event sponsors, and Special Olympics Washington. The athletes, coaches and team support staff were celebrated from the moment they started walking, all the way across campus.
As they made their final turn towards the staging site at Alaska Airlines arena, even more fans joined the cheering section, waving signs they had brought from home and chanting state names as the delegations passed. Volunteers from Starbucks helped show everyone to their seats to await the athlete parade. While in the arena, teams were mingling, dancing, and trading coveted delegation pins. A number of Team Massachusetts athletes are well on their way to collecting all 52!
As the clock ticked down to the start of Opening Ceremonies, everyone in the area joined in “5-4-3-2-1” and then erupted into cheers, whistles, and shouts of joy. The Athlete Parade was starting. Alabama kicked things off and each state followed in alphabetical order. While awaiting their turn, Team Massachusetts watched the broadcast of the ceremonies on the jumbotron.
Once it was their turn, Team Massachusetts walked down the steps and out through a tunnel to Husky Stadium. They emerged onto the sunlit field to applause from the tens of thousands in attendance. Swimmer Timothy Canty was chosen to carry the Massachusetts Delegation sign and golfer Tyler Lagasse walked along side. Everyone waved to the crowd and to the cameras – sending love to those in the stands as well as to friends and family back home.
Throughout the ceremonies there were opportunities to feel proud, to cheer, to dance, to wave streamers, and to take in the size and scope of the Special Olympics Movement. Speakers included emcee Taye Diggs, Special Olympics Chairman, Tim Shriver, Loretta Claiborne, and local athletes, volunteers, officials, and coaches. Musical performances by Allen Stone and Charlie Puth provided entertainment and made sure everyone got up to dance.
The event closed with the arrival of the Special Olympics Flame of Hope which had made its way around the State of Washington over the past week in the care of the Law Enforcement Torch Run. Special Olympics Massachusetts athlete, Danny Williamson and Mansfield Police Sergeant, Larry Crosman ran with the torch in this year’s Final Leg which culminated with the lighting of the Cauldron on Sunday afternoon.
Now the Games are open and competition is at hand. Some teams took time after the Ceremonies to check in with friends and family, others got changed and ready get in one more practice. Everyone is feeling inspired and ready to show the country what they can do!