SINGAPORE - With their clappers and pom-poms, about 1,000 athletes and spectators rocked the opening ceremony of the 9th Special Olympics Singapore National Games on Friday night (May 19).
The event - graced by President Tony Tan Keng Yam - featured dance, martial arts and musical displays by Towner Gardens School, Xango Capoeira Singapore and Delta Senior School.
Flags, banners, athletes and spectators dressed in a wide spectrum of colours at the Bishan Stadium were also treated to ceremonial proceedings, such as the athletes' parade and the Special Olympics Flame, celebrated with confetti and mini-fireworks.
About 600 local athletes, coming from 30 different schools, form Singapore's contingent for this year's competition.
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As part of the 660 competitors, they will compete against athletes from the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Myanmar and Thailand in seven different sports including athletics, badminton, bocce, bowling, football, swimming and table tennis.
The three-day event, which runs till May 21, allows athletes with intellectual disabilities above eight years old to compete in selected sports.
Said Dr Teo-Koh Sock Miang, President of Special Olympics Singapore: "The National Games is very important for all our Special Olympics athletes. It's a platform where they showcase their ability and sporting talent.
"My hope has always been that they do their very, very best, and that they'll dig a lot deeper and demonstrate that the abilities they have, through all the training sessions that they had.
"My dream and hopes for them would be to throw further, jump higher, run faster. At the end of the day, my hope is that Singapore, as a community, will step forward to support and recognise them.
"We as a community can play a part in their sporting journey."
Themed "One Heartbeat in Sports", the events will be held at various venues around the island and are open to the public at no charge.
Said Dr Teo-Koh: "Our heart is so capable of love and emotion. It's not just a functional organ, but it's an organ that goes beyond keeping us alive. That's what it's all about. In Special Olympics, it's about heart, loving, giving and sharing.
"At the same time, all the heartbeats need to come together and beat as one for a community that really deserves the respect and recognition. All of us - we're one heart."