I know. It’s hard to imagine but if you had been in my place tonight, you would have felt the same way.

I was privileged to be invited to come and be the French announcer for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Special Olympics Summer National Games taking place this week in London, ON.

In many ways it was as if Special Olympics came full circle tonight as Dr Frank Hayden described how his inspiration for the movement came from an idea the he developed in a tiny office in Thames Hall at the University of Western Ontario in the early 1960s. I had also heard him speak in December at the Special Olympics Sports FestivalI and am truly in awe of “the power of one.” Tonight, I got to speak to him, shake his hand and tell him that I feel like the world owes him one. His accomplishments humble me and meeting him makes me feel like we all need to try harder and be better humans.

From a modest beginning with 1400 athletes in three sports, Special Olympics has grown to over 34,000 athletes across the country with the top 1057 competing here for the chance to represent Canada in 2011 at the World Games taking place in Athens, Greece.

Ken Heslop, a (the?) Detective Superintendent for the London Police has been totally immersed for the last 2 years in his role of organizing the Opening, Closing, protocol and Medal ceremonies for these games. His face beamed with pride as he told me “tonight was all about the athletes. Everything we did was for them, their family and friends.” Ken and his team hit it right out of the park. In addition to entertainment provided by 3 bands and dancers from Dance Extreme, there was a 13 yr old singer named Saveria who sang the National anthem as well as the Olympic “I Believe” song. This girl has “the goods” – watch your back Niki Yanofsky – there’s a new girl in town!

As I faced the the crowd, the provincial delegations were seated in front of me and wore different coloured t-shirts in their provincial colour. I was tickled to see the excitement on their faces as surprise after surprise was revealed during the Opening. There was the helicopter, courtesy of the RCMP, that arrived on the field carrying the Special Olympics flag. There was the arrival of the flame that was carried in by members of the Law Enforcement Torch Run. There was a great moment when swimmer Alison Lang from London got up to take the athletes’ oath. She didn’t have to say it on behalf of the athletes as all of the others joined her in a chorus of voices: “Let me Win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” and then with her voice at a fevered pitch, she yelled “Go Ontario!!!!” Nothing restrained about that and it couldn’t have been more refreshing.

The excitement kept on coming as a Tactical Unit truck carrying some pretty impressive looking officers on it did a pass around the stadium and came to a stop. When the door opened none other than Don Cherry popped out. He was set to present the flag that had just arrived by helicopter to the officer who was going to be raising it. The crowd went wild. When Don finally took his seat, he patiently signed autographs and posed for pictures when there was a break in the proceedings. When he arrived on stage to speak, he delivered some great words of encourgament with the perfect Coach’s Corner kind of delivery. The athletes were thrilled to have a Canadian icon in their midst and for him to be exactly as you imagined he would be was wonderful. He even smiled at me! Hmmm…maybe the “dark side” ( my term for hockey) isn’t quite so dark after all. I do believe I may have developed a crush on him! Hard not to fall in love just a little bit on such a magical night.

Tagged with: