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December 8, 2013
Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games honour Mandela in closing ceremony

A group of athletes celebrate the closing of the Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games Photo/Eva Yao
NEWCASTLE, December 7, 2013 - More than 10,000 people with and without a disability united Saturday at an open-air festival concert in Newcastle to celebrate the closing of the inaugural Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games, and to honour the legacy of Special Olympics supporter, Nelson Mandela.

Special Olympics athletes, coaches and support teams wore armbands in a salute to the late South African president and international icon for inclusion, equality and freedom.

Mandela and his children’s foundation worked with Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her organisation to reach out to people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

In Mandela’s words, “The Special Olympics gives testimony to the indestructability of the human spirit and of our capacity to overcome hardships and obstacles.

“When you attend a Special Olympics games and watch the sheer joy and faces – not just of the athletes, but more overwhelmingly among spectators – you begin to realise there is much more at work than simply athletic competition. It is a profound statement of inclusion – that everybody matters, everybody counts, every life has value and every person has worth.”

The week-long Games, which brought together 2,500 athletes from 29 countries, was a showcase of quality competition celebrating the talents and abilities of people with an intellectual disability.

Chair Special Olympics Australia Board, Mark Streeting said, “President Mandela taught us about the power of the human spirit. And as we honour this incredible man, we should all think about how we can continue his legacy through inspiring those in our communities to live in a way that respects others.”

Mel Eustace, Athlete Games Ambassador said, “On behalf of all the athletes, we thank the Newcastle – Hunter community, and the 5,000 dedicated volunteers for welcoming and supporting us to achieve our personal best.“

Alex McNeilly, General Manager Special Olympics Australia said “Thank-you, Aussie spirit is alive and well at Special Olympics the business and community has dug deep to deliver our first ever international games. Remarkable volunteers making dreams come true for so many who have daily life challenges to play sport and celebrate their personal best".

The Games also held a number of events throughout the week, including the Law Enforcement Torch Run®, Healthy Athletes®, Health Symposium, Young Athletes™ and Unified Sports® Experience.

Special Olympics International CEO Janet Froetscher and Football Legend Hidetoshi Nakata attended the Games, along with other dignitaries and leaders from the Asia Pacific Region to witness the inspiring power of sports to transform and enrich the lives of people with an intellectual disability.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/specialolympicsaustralia/

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