There were about 6,500 athletes from 165 countries that competed in 25 different sports over the 9 days of the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games. The Games are not about the numbers, but rather about, "uniting the world through sports in a celebration of the abilities and accomplishments of people with intellectual disabilities and forming a new global vision of acceptance."
While President Obama welcomed the athletes via a video, the First Lady Michelle Obama was able to attend and welcome everyone to Los Angeles during the Opening Ceremony for games.
"To all of our athletes, I just want you to know that all those people won't just be cheering for you, they're going to be learning from you, They're going to be inspired by you. And they'll be reminded that at our core, we all want the same things - a sense of pride in who we are, and a belief that we can reach our dreams no matter what challenges we face."
While the games were filled with inspiring stories, one in particular stood out to us. Olivia Quigley postponed her surgery for breast cancer in order to have the opportunity to compete in the Games. She decided to hold off on her surgery until after the games, but did continue with chemo leaving her exhausted and nauseous all through the competition. Cancer or not, she went on to win gold in the 100 meter dash!
While the athletes were competing, they were also invited to take part in the Healthy Athletes program that provided screenings for seven different conditions. By the end of the Games 4,300 shoes were distributed, 500 hearing aids, 100 mouth guards, and "600 pairs of glasses prescribed, sized and edged on the spot."
At the Closing Ceremonies athletes, coaches, volunteers, and fans flooded the Coliseum for a night of closing remarks, fireworks, an inspiring video and a concert. The Special Olympics flag was lowered and presented to the President of the Austria 2017 Special Olympics Winter World Games, who will be hosting the games next.
Finally, at the end of the hour long ceremony, all of the athletes and fans got up and danced to a concert featuring Carly Rae Jepsen, O.A.R. and Mix Master Mike from the Beastie Boys. In the end, 27 world records were smashed, countless medals and ribbons distributed, and it became the most popular Games in their history thanks to extensive coverage by ESPN and the 500,000 fans that came out to watch.