Happy Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day 2016!

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

– Special Olympics Athlete Oath

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Eunice Kennedy Shriver wrote this down on the morning of July 20, 1968, the day of the first Special Olympics International Games. She spoke the oath at the Opening Ceremony, and ever since, Special Olympic athletes have been pledging it at every Special Olympic competition.

Today is the seventh annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day! We celebrate this every year to honor Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics. She changed the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities by providing them with a way to train and compete in sports, and she changed the lives of everyone in the world by creating a way for inclusion.

She was a hero in changing the world, and every day, Special Olympics continues on her heroic legacy. By reciting the Athlete Oath 48 years ago, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a movement toward inclusion, and all of the 4.7 million current Special Olympics athletes and 1 million coaches and volunteers have continued her effort to create a world that celebrates people’s abilities instead of disabilities. Thank you, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, for giving the world Special Olympics. ❤

Click on the images below to make them bigger and celebrate EKS Day and Special Olympics with me! 🙂

My Olympic Summer

Hi everyone!

I’m sorry for not posting for such a long time. After Rio, I was really exhausted, and then I had to get ready for my last semester of college! Now, I’m back in school, and I’m going to try to keep a regular posting schedule again.

Coming back to school again after Rio and my summer has been difficult, but I’m slowly adjusting. Because it’s almost the end of summer (it ends on September 21), I thought I would look back on my very Olympic summer for this post. Here is a recap video.

 

This summer, I was lucky enough to intern for Special Olympics Southern California at the Summer Games, volunteer for LA24 and LA84’s Olympic Day at the LA Memorial Coliseum, organize a day for Rio 2016 volunteers in Southern California to visit LA 2024’s office to learn more about the bid, meet Kerri Walsh Jennings, attend the Road to Rio event at Venice Beach, meet Dustin Plunkett, attend NBC’s Social Media Opening Ceremony, intern for the LA 2024 Olympic Bid Committee, and volunteer at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Mostly though, I was really lucky to be able to spend a whole summer doing what I love. I’m so grateful to have had the summer I had and to have met the people I met.

What’s next for me?

I am currently writing my senior Honors thesis about incorporating a Special Olympics’ Unified Sports experience into the Olympics. It’s due in December! In the meantime, I’ll also be going to Olympic, Paralympic, and Special Olympic events in the city and volunteering! Keep an eye on my blog to read more about what I’m up to!

After that, I’m graduating from Pace University, and then, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. 🙂

Last Day in Rio

Unfortunately, my Rio adventure ends today. Tonight, I leave for the U.S., and although I’m excited to come back and see everyone I’ve missed, it’s still really hard to say goodbye to all the friends I’ve made here and to this beautiful city. Obrigada, Rio.

When I started this adventure two years ago when I applied to volunteer, I could guess that it would be amazing, but I really had no idea that this would be the best thing I have ever done. Thank you to Rio, thank you to all the people I met and became friends with, and thank you to everyone who supported me from home. For the past few weeks, everyone has been filled with the Olympic spirit, and I’ve seen a side of humanity that you don’t usually get to see. Through sport, people united. This experience was incredible, and my favorite part was all the people.

Sunday night, the Olympic flame went out, but the spirit of the Olympics will live on until Tokyo, and I’ll see it there!

Volunteering at the Olympics has taught me so much, provided me with a new perspective of the world and my place in it,  and given me a lot of new goals. Experiencing the Olympics firsthand as a volunteer and a spectator has confirmed that I want to work for this incredible Movement.

See you later, Brazil, and see you in four years, Tokyo!

Here’s a recap video of my last few days in Brazil! ❤️

Olympics Update

Hi everyone!

My time in Rio is starting to wind down, which is very bittersweet. Yesterday, I finished my last volunteer shift, and today I’m attending my last competition. So many of the friends I made are leaving, but even though we’re sad, we’re also happy because we had the chance to do something most people in the world don’t get to do. Volunteering at the Olympics has taught me so much about the world. I have interacted with people from so many from countries that I might never visit, but we still managed to communicate with each other sometimes even if we didn’t speak the same language. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, once said, “the most important thing about the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part.” Although he was talking more about athletes having good sportsmanship, his quote also applies to my experience. I didn’t compete at the Olympics, but I did take part, and doing that has been life-changing.

In the past week, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to watch Usain Bolt run the prelims, semi-finals, and finals of the 100 meter sprint; Simone Biles and Aly Raisman perform at the Gymnastics Gala; Russia win the Synchronized Swimming duet; and various teams play Water Polo. I also visited the Sugarloaf Mountain with two American volunteers who I met online and was really excited to meet in person, I went to the Escadaria Selarón (the famous steps in Rio de Janeiro), and I rode one of the bikes used in the Opening Ceremony! This has just been so incredible because every day is an amazing adventure, and most of the time, I don’t know what will happen when I wake up in the morning. Rio de Janeiro is one of the most laid back and relaxed places I have ever been to, and I really like its stress-free environment. I think it’s very healthy, and it allows for people (like me!) to have awesome adventures.

I go to diving today, and tomorrow, I’m going to attend The Today Show. To my friends on the East Coast, it will be aired live at 7 am! Try to find me. 🙂 Tomorrow is also the Closing Ceremony!

Here’s a video that I made last Thursday for my second recap on my Rio 2016 adventures. Check out my next video for what I did starting yesterday until the end of my trip.

The Olympics!

Hi everyone! I’m sorry for not updating sooner. As soon as I got to Rio, it has been go go go because I want to do and experience everything!

Here’s a video recap of my time here so far!

I am loving it so much. Everyone has been so friendly both in the Olympics and in Brazil. Even if we don’t speak the same language, we somehow manage to make it work through hand motions, Google Translate, and body language. I am so grateful that I’m in Rio right now having my dreams become true! Thank you to everyone who has helped make this amazing experience happen for me.

About volunteering:

I’m working in the Main Press Centre at the Main Help Desk in Barra Olympic Park. I help journalists and photographers by checking them in, giving them their press kits, and answering any questions they have. I love where I’m working because I get to talk to so many people from all over the world and from big news outlets like BBC or The New York Times. Additionally because we are working with so many people from around the world who might not speak Portuguese or English, we have the help of the Language Team. It’s been really fun to start trying to help a journalist or photographer in English, identify his or her language, and then have someone there who actually speaks it be able to help him or her.

I’m the only American volunteer in my section, which makes it really amazing because I’m making friends with people from all over the world. There are volunteers from Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, China, and Colombia who work with me. It’s been incredible to learn more about people’s lives in other parts of the world, and it has definitely been a life-changing experience so far. I’ve learned that some things are very different in other parts of the world (like people don’t say “bless you” after someone sneezes), some are close but different (the keyboards on computers in Brazil are almost exactly the same as keyboards in the U.S. but a few of the keys are moved around), and others are exactly the same in every country like smiles, laughter, loving dogs, and people wanting their countries to win gold! 🙂

Olympic Day

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To me, every day is Olympic Day (especially when it’s one more day until I leave for Rio!), but Olympic Day is also a day celebrated every June 23 to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games in 1894. Every year from May 31 to June 30, communities and programs around the United States organize events to celebrate the day. Before my internship at LA 2024, I had never been to one of these events.

On Thursday, June 23, the LA 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Bid Committee and the LA84 Foundation, which was formed with the profits from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, hosted an Olympic Day celebration in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Over 500 youth in the Los Angeles community came, and after the Opening Ceremony, they were able to learn and play Sitting Volleyball, Volleyball, Archery, Rugby, Soccer, Fencing, Rowing, and Badminton.

The Opening Ceremony, staged in front of the Memorial Coliseum, featured LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman, LA 2024 Vice Chair and Director of Athlete Relations Janet Evans, and LA84 Foundation and CEO Renata Simril. After the Opening Ceremony ended, the cauldron ignited, and a day of Olympic Spirit began.

We started the day off by arranging all of the students into the Olympic rings, which was kind of difficult but very cool. After creating the rings, each group went off to its station to learn the rules of the sport and try it out.

IMG_0686 (1)During the day, I was also able to learn a few new sports. I tried Sitting Volleyball, a Paralympic sport where competitors are only allowed to sit on the ground while playing. This was so much fun! I never enjoyed playing Volleyball in gym, but I really liked this.

I also learned a little Fencing from a very energetic coach. Before this, Fencing always seemed too foreign for me to understand, but she broke down how to play it for me. Although it was really hard (so much to think about!), I enjoyed the little private lesson, and I would like to try Fencing again. I’m really excited to watch Fencing at the Olympics because now I have a little more understanding of the sport and how it feels to do it.

Toward the end of the day, I tried Rowing. Because they weren’t able to bring a place where you could actually row onto the field of the Coliseum, they had rowing machines set up. I had used them before in high school gym class. Now I know what they’re really meant for because the person at that station talked me through what the motions on the machine stimulated in actual Rowing.

This day was really fun, and it made me very excited for the start of my internship. A little less than a year ago, I had been in the stands of the Coliseum watching the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony happen on that same field where I stood on Olympic Day. While watching all of the kids try out different Olympic sports with the cauldron burning above the field, I was really inspired. It felt right for Los Angeles, and it felt right for me. The cauldron of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the place where the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, and Olympic Day began, will hopefully light up at the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympics, and maybe some of the students from Olympic Day 2016 will be there competing.

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For faster updates while I’m at the Olympics, follow the Olympics of Blogs on Instagram @theolympicsofblogs. I leave on Monday!

 

The Athens 2004 Opening Ceremony

When I was interning for Special Olympic NYC last spring, I met Annamaria who was also an intern. In 2004, she attended the Opening Ceremony for the Athens 2004 Olympics with her family. The Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony is one week from today, so I asked her about her experience at the Athens Ceremony 12 years ago.

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Annamaria with her grandpa at the Opening Ceremony

The Olympics of Blogs: How old were you when you watched the Athens 2004 Opening Ceremony?

Annamaria: I was 10 years old.

The Olympics of Blogs: What was your favorite part?

Annamaria: The entire ceremony was amazing, but if I had to choose one part, it was when there were two men beating a drum. One on screen at the site Olympia and one in the stadium. Immediately after this, a flame flew into the Olympic stadium and created the Olympic rings. I remember that being a powerful moment and apparently the drum beats were supposed to represent the beating of the heart.

Here is a video of that moment! Click the link to open it on YouTube!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2atZjcBqs4

The Olympics of Blogs: As someone who is Greek and American, do you think that you experienced the Ceremony differently from people of different nationalities?

Annamaria: I would say for Greek people from Greece and around the world, this Ceremony was very important to them and once in a lifetime. I was very proud to have the Olympic Games back at home in Greece and very grateful that I could experience the Ceremony in person. I also think the Olympics are very important to Americans, and they also have a lot of pride as well. So it was a really special night, experiencing the entire ceremony as both a proud Greek and American. We had both the American and Greek flag with us; this made the whole experience of cheering for the Greek and American athletes really fun! We were cheering for everyone though. The people sitting near us were from different areas around the world, so we were cheering with them too and just having a great time!

The Olympics of Blogs: Could you describe the ceremony?

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Annamaria: The entire ceremony felt surreal. I was sad when it ended because I didn’t want it to end! It was a very well put together ceremony and very symbolic, which ties in with the importance of symbolism and philosophy in Greek history and culture. A large portion of the ceremony was the procession of the history of Greece until modern day. It was so beautiful to watch. A moment that stuck out to me the most was when the athletes from Iraq walked out. The entire stadium started cheering very loud for them to support them, given the political tensions that were happening around the world at that time. It really proves how the Olympics can be unifying and bring peace during times of political division in the world. Overall, the entire ceremony was beautiful and well put together. The feeling in the stadium was full of happiness, excitement, and pride from everyone.
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I’m still working on trying to get Opening Ceremony tickets of my own! We’ll see how that goes as we get closer to August 5. Only 7 days to go until the 2016 Rio Opening Ceremony.

For faster updates while I’m at the Olympics, follow the Olympics of Blogs on Instagram @theolympicsofblogs.