LOS ANGELES (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama is coming to Los Angeles next month to kick off the Special Olympics World Games, organizers announced Thursday.
Obama, long an advocate of physical fitness and healthy lifestyles, will take part in the games’ opening ceremonies July 25 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of opening ceremonies for the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics.
“The Special Olympics movement is thrilled and honored to have first lady Michelle Obama join us on this momentous occasion,” said Tim Shriver, the games’ chairman. “Her vision of wellness, fitness and inclusion of all in sport is at the heart of Special Olympics.”
With approximately 7,000 athletes participating in 26 different sports, organizers expect the nine-day Special Olympics will be the largest sports event Los Angeles has hosted since the 1984 Summer Olympics. They anticipate as many as 500,000 spectators will take part in the various events, all of which are free except for the opening ceremony.
The three-hour opening will be broadcast live on ESPN and feature a long list of entertainers, musicians, former Olympic champions and others joining Obama to welcome the athletes.
“It’s going to be a real celebration of our theme, which is celebrating courage, determination and joy, and creating awareness that leads to acceptance and inclusion,” Patrick McClenahan, the games’ president and CEO, told The Associated Press.
The Special Olympics features athletes with intellectual disabilities competing in such sports as swimming, basketball, track and field, and gymnastics.
The event’s opening has elements familiar to the Olympic Games, including the parade of athletes from around the world and a ceremonial lighting of the torch.
There will also be music and inspirational speeches, including performances by Stevie Wonder and Avril Lavigne. The latter plans to perform her song “Fly” publicly for the first time.
Others planning to participate are talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel, actress Eva Longoria and Olympic gold medalists Michael Phelps and Greg Louganis.
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