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Special Olympics Summer Games underway in Langley

"You may have been told in the past that there are things you can't do. Special Olympics is about what you can do."

Those were the words of Arne Olson, chair of the 2013 Special Olympics BC Summer Games.

Olson was speaking at the Games' opening ceremonies on Thursday evening (July 11) at the Langley Events Centre.

The event was emceed by CTV's Ann Luu.

More than 2,500 people — including about 1,100 Special Olympics athletes — plus thousands more in the stands were on hand to kick off the Games, which run Friday and Saturday (July 12 and 13) at the LEC, Willoughby Community Park, McLeod Park, Willowbrook Lanes, Walnut Grove Aquatic Centre and Redwoods Golf Course.

The athletes will compete in five-pin bowling, 10-pin bowling, basketball, bocce, golf, power lifting, rhythmic gymnastics, soccer, softball, softball skills, swimming and track and field.

The only venue outside Langley is in Coquitlam, which will host 10-pin bowling.

The ceremony featured some remarks from local politicians.

"You have trained, you have practised and you have pushed your limits," said Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA Rich Coleman.

"And you have taught yourselves and all of us something. You have become role models for all in your communities and you should be very, very proud of that."

"This is your time to shine and be the best you can be … and go for the gold," said Township Mayor Jack Froese.

"Many of you have been training your whole life to be here today, so congratulations," said Langley MP Mark Warawa.

"All of you are truly inspirational."

Olson talked about three main things: teamwork, vision and focus.

Teamwork is about coming together and making all of this a possibility.

Originally, he had wanted 1,100 volunteers. They wound up with 1,200.

Vision is about what the Games stand for.

"The Games are part of a larger picture, the right to pursue excellence, just like everyone else," Olson said.

And focus.

"The Games are about you, the athletes," he said.

"Doing your best in front of everybody is a great act of courage. Thank you for that inspiration."

Pamela Keith, the chair of the Special Olympics BC board of directors, told the crowd that hopefully the Games inspire more people to get involved.

"Your dedication and all your hard work … is an inspiration to all of us," she said.

A pair of Langley athletes — Matt Williams and Nicole Van De Velde — recited the athletes' oath: "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Swim coach Marilyn Farquhar delivered the coaches' oath and John Rogers administered the officials' oath.

Following that, members of the Law Enforcement Torch Run — athletes George Jennens and Kathy Foss and Torch Run members Joanne Wild and Lisa Coupar handed it off to Emergency Response Team officers Cpl. Chris Goebel and Const.

Sebastian Pilote — who rapelled from the LEC rafters — and Sgt. Glen Fishbook and athletes Dustin Beard and Nikki Anderson.

The torch was then passed to Abbotsford Police Department Deputy Chief Rick Lucy and Assistant Commissioner RCMP E Division's Norm Lipinski, and athletes Stuart Stevenson and Jennifer King.

Lucy and Stevenson then lit the cauldron.

The ceremonies closed with the athletes singing and dancing as Steve Elliott — also known as Elvis Elite — performed for the crowd.

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