SPORTS: Special Olympics set to open

Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - The opening ceremony of the 2013 PyeongChang Special Olympics will be held Tuesday at YongPyong Dome in YongPyong Resort, Gangwon Province.

About 3,300 athletes and officials from 111 countries will compete in the eight-day athletic contest for the mentally disabled.

For Pyeongchang, the Special Olympics also are a good chance to gauge the town's readiness to host the 2018 Winter Olympics with the same main venues being used ? Pyeongchang Alpensia, YongPyong Resort and Gangneung Indoor Ice Rink.

Athletes will compete in 59 events in seven sports: alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, figure skating, short track speed skating and floor hockey.

Medal ceremonies will not be restricted to athletes in the top three. Fourth to eighth place finishers will be also decorated with ribbons, a commendation which recognises their hard work in overcoming their disabilities. As suggested by the Special Olympics athletes' oath, "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt," the Games seeks to honour as many as athletes as possible for their undaunted challenges.

Meanwhile, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge and Kim Jin-sun, president of the PyeongChang Organising Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, will sign the PyeongChang Olympics Marketing Plan Agreement on January 30. They will visit Jincheon Athletes' Village Complex the next day and hold a news conference on February 1.

The Special Olympics Global Development Summit will open on January 30, the second day of the competition. Around 300 leading figures from around the world will gather at the Convention Center of Alpensia Resort Pyeongchang to discuss the cycle of poverty and social exclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.

Summit participants will include South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik; National League for Democracy of Burma chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi; Malawian President Joyce Banda; International Criminal Court president Song Sang-hyun; Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller; British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt; Monaco's Princess Caroline; NBA stars Dikembe Mutombo and Yao Ming; actress Zhang Ziyi; and PyeongChang Special Olympics World Winter Games Organising Committee chairwoman Na Kyung-won.

During the PyeongChang Special Olympics, visitors will be able to enjoy orchestral concerts, Korean classical concerts, an exciting percussion show "Nanta" and other cultural events at five places including Pyeongchang and Gangneung.

The Special Olympics was founded by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, President John F. Kennedy's sister, in 1968 with the Chicago Summer Games. The Winter Games and Summer Games are held biennially around the world.

People above the age of 6 and found to be intellectually disabled by professionals or medical institutions are eligible to register as athletes. However, training and competing is only allowed for those age 8 years and older. Otherwise, those who have been trained for at least 8 weeks under the supervision of a medical professional are eligible for competition.

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