Athletes arrive to prepare for Olympic competition

There was something extra special about Claremont this week. The long-awaited arrival of Special Olympics delegations from Bolivia, Latvia, Republic of Georgia and Curaçao on Tuesday kicked-off a series of events that brought a bit of added culture to the city while uniting the community.

Law enforcement personnel, city staff, residents and athletes from around the globe stood side-by-side beneath the majestic trees at Memorial Park on Wednesday to witness the final leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run as it made its way through the heart of town.

Sacramento resident Jonathan Sparks and New Jersey resident Frank Aresta carried the Flame of Hope down Indian Hill Boulevard while the newly-arrived athletes got into their groove by kicking around a soccer ball, visiting with one another and enjoying the swings at the park before the torch’s arrival.

The Final Leg Torch Run began July 13 at the State Capitol Building in Sacramento. It made its way through more than 120 cities across the state before arriving in the City of Trees to celebrate the beginning of the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015 and to recognize Claremont as an official host town.

The Flame of Hope was lit by the sun’s rays at the Sacred Site of Pnyx, opposite the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, during a formal ceremony on May 14 and will complete its 73-day trans-Atlantic journey on July 25. The final leg team will carry the flame into the opening ceremony of the 2015 World Games and ignite the cauldron at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the 1932 and 1984 Olympics were held.

With a resounding round of applause, the torch arrived at its destination just before 2 p.m. and made its way through a lineup of Special Olympics supporters and athletes before coming to a stop in front of the historic Garner House.

With a crowd of nearly 300 gathered, including council members Opanyi Nasiali and Joe Lyons, Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper opened the ceremony with a few words about the 2015 World Games before passing the torch, so to speak, off to Mr. Lyons.

“It is my honor and privilege to recognize our athletic delegations from Latvia, Curaçao, the Republic of Georgia and Bolivia, whose determination to compete and do their very best is an inspiration to everyone who witnesses their joy in life and living,” Mr. Lyons said. “Welcome to Claremont and thank you for being here.”

On January 27, the city council approved Claremont’s participation as a Special Olympics World Games host town. Nearly 100 athletes, trainers and support staff from four countries arrived in Claremont on Tuesday after a reception at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. City staff was on-hand to greet the delegations upon their arrival and assisted each country’s athletes as they settled into their home away from home. 

“We’re very pleased that this event has allowed our community to come together to really show what Claremont is about and showcase our various agencies working together,” City Manager Tony Ramos said. “From our businesses, to the Colleges, to the city, to our schools, we came together as one Claremont. The athletes are so excited to be here, and to see the smiles on their faces is very rewarding.”

Working in collaboration with Pomona, Claremont McKenna and Scripps colleges, the city provided the delegations with food, housing and entertainment during their stay in Claremont. The athletes trained at various venues throughout the city in preparation for their events.

Following the torch ceremony, the delegates were treated to a picnic at Pomona Fairplex also attended by Mayor Calaycay and Mayor Pro-Tem Sam Pedroza. The fun continued Thursday at Memorial Park with a concert featuring The Ravelers and a Kiwanis BBQ.

“Music is a universal language and something everyone can enjoy,” Claremont Public Information Officer Bevin Handel explained. “The Ravelers were kind enough to donate their time for this special event.”

The Special Olympics Host Town festivities concluded on Friday morning with a send-off rally held at Pomona College. Claremonters cheered on the delegates before they made their way back to Los Angeles for the big event.

With 6,500 athletes and 2,000 coaches representing 165 countries, along with 30,000 volunteers and an anticipated 500,000 spectators, the Special Olympics World Games 2015 will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world this year, and the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympics.

From July 25 through August 2, athletes will compete in 25 competitions ranging from softball to equestrian events and from tennis to cycling. The events are free and open to the public at venues throughout Los Angeles, including locations in Encino and Long Beach as well as USC and UCLA.

ESPN, the official broadcast partner of the 2015 World Games, will televise the Opening Ceremony live on Saturday, July 25 as well as a nightly highlights program throughout the nine-day event.

Since 1968, thousands of Special Olympics athletes worldwide have come together every two years to showcase their athletic skills in alternating Summer and Winter Games. Special Olympics World Games bring public attention to the talents and capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities and are a capstone to more than 81,000 competitions that happen at all levels each year.

For information about or to learn more about the delegations and athletes staying in Claremont, visit www.la2015.org.

—Angela Bailey

news@claremont-courier.com

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