Emotional Showdown of the World Winter Games 2017
A moving speech by Arnold Schwarzenegger and grand fireworks in the sky over Graz were the final highlights of the closing ceremony of the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017. And it was definitely a worthy ending of an event that took the hearts of the people by storm.
The big showdown at the Liebenau stadium was characterized by the same beautiful positive energy as the opening ceremony at Schladming. Again, more than 15.000 people wanted to witness the event and so another audience sector had to be added on Thursday. The show that lasted about one and a half hours offered a well-balanced mix of typically Styrian elements, and energetic international dance and acrobatics performances, for example by artists of the Cirque du Soleil or world champion in dancing Louis van Amstel.
Also, musically the show presented us with familiar faces from the opening ceremony: Rose May Alaba performed the Coca-Cola Unified song „Can you feel it“ and the atmosphere reached its emotional peak when Helene Fischer entered the stage and presented the official anthem of the World Winter Games 2017, “Fighter”, just like a week before in Schladming. The president of Special Olympics Austria, Jürgen Winter then handed over the flag of Special Olympics to the hosts of the next Games: Abu Dhabi. The capital of the United Arab Emirates also gave us an impressive presentation of what to expect in 2019.
The dance group “Ich bin O.K.” with their protagonist Maria Naber offered an enchanting performance, just like at the opening ceremony. She particularly impressed Austrian folk star Andreas Gabalier whom she presented a lit up heart after his unplugged performance of his song “Steirerland”.
The „flame of hope“ lay at the heart of the speech by Siegfried Nagl, mayor of Graz. His message: “The flame might be gone but the fire is still burning”. It served to remind that the impulse that the Games had set must not go out again.
13-year old America´s Got Talent winner Grace VanderWaal got the audience moving when she performed her two songs “I don´t know my name” and “Light the sky”, before she handed over the stage to honorary president of Special Olympics Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I’m so happy that you are all here, because you are all the greatest athletes in the world! And I’m really proud of these games – they were the best and biggest in history”, he said.
„Heartbeat for the world“, was the motto of this year´s Special Olympics World Winter Games, the worldwide largest winter sports event for people with mental impairments and which took place from March 14 to 25. More than 2600 athletes from 105 nations, 1100 trainer, 5000 family members, 3000 volunteers and 600 journalists and media representatives were present at the sporting venues at Graz, Schladming and Ramsau am Dachstein. Eight days of competition resulted in about 1000 medals.
In total, the World Winter Games were the initial impulse for a new culture of exchange which was characterized by openness, warmth and by working together instead of against each other. This was also easily seen even before the competitions began: with the Torch Run and the enthusiastic realization of the Host Town program in the whole of Austria.
The people realizing and participating in both programs were significantly responsible for the more than a thousand people who witnessed the competitions as well as the award ceremonies and therefore were responsible for those countless moments of heart-warming emotions as well as the exuberant atmosphere at all the venues.
And there is even more good news: apart from a few mild injuries, there were no complications whatsoever during this beautiful event.
Jürgen Winter, President of Special Olympics Austria: The Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 were games of all games! Austria could show how cordial its people as well as its culture can be. In the future we need to seize this launch vehicle to further the cause for people with mental impairments and move a step forward to a change of the whole of society.
Marc Angelini, Director of Austria 2017: I was present throughout 13 World Games in various positions and therefore I know well what can be good and what cannot work. But if you actually receive only six calls telling you about something that does not work, then this speaks for itself. If Coca-Cola boss Mutar Kent tells you that event was literally the event for him, a wonderful experience, that speaks for itself. If you are being praised by athletes and coaches and only see radiating faces, if you can witness the happiness and this unique atmosphere, then this speaks for itself even more. The entire team did something remarkable, something incomprehensible. First and foremost we set an signal that reaches far beyond any borders concerning sport, humanity
Markus Pichler, Director of Austria 2017: We definitely reached our goal to carry the message of Special Olympics into society. We showed what inclusion means, that it works and what the people are capable of. This is the true value of the World Winter Games. The spark jumped over to the people, they are talking about it and concern themselves with it. The topic is now present in the heads of the people – in the future, a lot of things will happen in this regard. Concerning the organization of the event we showed that Austria is a great host country. Somebody told me: Such a level of professionalism paired with such cordiality! This amazing praise is deserved by everybody who was part of it.
Photos of the closing ceremony can you find under: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sowwg2017/albums/72157679359321982