Despite torrential rain, Special Olympics athletes enjoyed an evening of superb entertainment as the 2017 National Games were officially opened.
Athletes and their families and supporters from all parts of Great Britain converged last night (Tuesday) on Bramall Lane in Sheffield in an inclusive display, celebrating the talents of learning (intellectual) disabled people.
Hosts, broadcaster, Suzi Perry and Downton Abbey actor, Jim Carter introduced a variety of acts ranging from 80s pop icon, Tony Hadley, through to the Para Cheer Cheerleaders and A-Plus Drumline, both inclusive groups that showcase learning disabled talent. Meanwhile, roving around the stadium was football pundit and one-man chaos factory, Chris Kamara, who spoke with several families about their passion for the Special Olympics.
The formalities of the athlete, officials and coaches oaths were observed shortly after the raising of the Special Olympics flag – although an indicator of just how difficult the conditions were, was that the ‘Flame of Hope’ torch could not be made to light the cauldron on cue. The Minister for Disabled people, Penny Mordaunt, praised the Special Olympics movement for its transformative place in sport before declaring the Games open, raising the biggest cheer of the night. James Toseland topped off the night by performing this year’s anthem with Chorus UK, ‘We’ll Stop At Nothing’.
Of course, the real stars of the show were the 2,600 athletes who had joyfully paraded into the stadium in the pouring rain, waving and smiling as they went and giving the first taste of the spirit we can expect throughout the Games this week.