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PyeongChang Opens 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games

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image (L to R) Olympic Gold Medalist Yuna Kim; Special Olympics Chair Tim Shriver, Korean President Lee Myung-bak and PyeongChang 2013 Chair and congresswoman Kyung Won Na (GamesBids Photo)

GamesBids.com Reporting from the scene in PyeongChang, South Korea

PyeongChang, South Korea - The Special Olympic World Games opened in PyeongChang, South Korea Tuesday night with ceremonies and celebration.  The city that is preparing for the Olympic Winter Games in 2018 has a chance to host thousands of athletes from around the world five years early.

More than 2,300 athletes from over 100 nations marched into Yong Pyong Dome launching eight days of winter sport competiton making the PyeongChang Special Olympics one of the world's biggest sporting events of the year.

The Games are open to those with intellectual disabilities and will play out alongside a Global Development Summit where world leaders will discuss how to improve the life of people with the same challenges.

Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics conveyed his remarks to the gathering of athletes, their families and many dignitaries. He said "many of you athletes come from places of rejection, but you come here with unity; you have already won the first gold."

"We issue a challenge to the world tonight to hear the voices of people with intellectual disabilities and end fear and stigma.

"Together, we can end discrimination. Together, we can change the world. Together, we will."

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi who is scheduled to deliver a keynote speach at the Global Summit on Wednesday, said "the disabled ones are not those who are suffering, but those who do not care for the suffering,"

"It is the spirit that overcomes. It is possible to overcome every suffering we may meet in life."

Korean President Lee Myung-bak addressed the spectators and offically opened the Games. Also speaking during the three-hour ceremony were the provincial Governor; the PyeongChang 2013 Chair and congresswoman Kyung Won Na; Olympic figure skating gold medalist and Special Olympics ambassador Yuna Kim and several Global Messengers - people with intellectual disabilities who spoke about their hopes an dreams.

Basketball superstars and Games ambassadors Dikembe Mutombo and Yao Ming arrived with the athletes to the delight of the special Olympians who offered loud cheers on their arrival.

Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon made prerecorded remarks that were shared on a video wall and Korea's President-elect Park Geun-hye was on-hand at the event; she will become Korea's first female President next month.

The celebrations included demonstrations of traditional dance and modern performances as well as short films and original music and more than 4,500 people filled the dome to capacity to enjoy the show.

The athletes will compete in several winter disciplines including figure skating, snow boarding and skiing, and they will occupy venues across Gangwon province including the cities of PyeongChang and Gangneung.

PyeongChang won its bid to host the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in 2011 and has already started to transform the designated areas for the Games.

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