The Flame of Hope is Ignited in Athens

Marking the start of the Law Enforcement Torch Run of the Special Olympics World Winter Games PyeongChang2013

A Tradition Continues

Special Olympics Korea athlete Kim Min Young (left) and Special Olympics Hellas (Greece) athlete Dimitris Klabanis carry The Flame of Hope through Athens after the torch lighting ceremony for the Special Olympics World Winter Games PyeongChang 2013.

Athens, Greece - 17 January 2013 - On Thursday, 17 January the Flame of Hope for the Special Olympics World Winter Games PyeongChang 2013 was lit during a formal torch lighting ceremony.  In keeping with tradition, this ceremony took place along the lines of the original torch lighting of the Olympics, at Zappeion Megaron in Athens, Greece where the flame was lit by the sun’s rays.  The Flame of Hope will then be transferred to Seoul, Republic of Korea where the Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) Final Leg will formally be launched on 21 January, preceding the Special Olympics World Winter Games PyeongChang 2013. This lighting ceremony begins a journey of the Flame of Hope across towns and cities throughout the Republic of Korea concluding with the Flame of Hope being delivered to the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics World Winter Games in PyeongChang on 29 January.

Who Attended

Thursday’s Torch Lighting Ceremony was presided over by the President of Special Olympics Hellas (Greece), Mrs. Joanna Despotopoulou, in Athens; included addresses given by:
•    Representative of the Prime Minister, Yiannis Ioannidis
•    The Mayor of Athens, George Kaminis
•    Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, Dr. Timothy P. Shriver
•    Chair of the Special Olympics World Winter Games PyeongChang 2013 Organizing Committee, Na Kyung Won

After the Flame of Hope was lit, Chairwoman Na handed the torch to Special Olympics Korea athlete, Kim Min Young and Special Olympics Hellas athlete, Dimitris Klabanis.

LETR Final Leg Team

The LETR Final Leg Team consists of an international team of 133 members including 95 Law Enforcement Officer runners, 10 Special Olympics athletes, and support personnel who will serve as Guardians of the Flame® as they run the Flame of Hope throughout Korea.  Information about the Final Leg Team can be found here:  The Flame of Hope will stop in over 40 cities and towns, honoring the spirit of the Special Olympics global movement and delivering a message of hope to communities where people with intellectual disabilities continue to fight for acceptance and a chance to excel without barriers.  The Flame will travel thousands of kilometers before arriving in PyeongChang where it will ignite the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the World Games on Tuesday, 29 January.  

Every two years, thousands of Special Olympics athletes worldwide come together to showcase their athletic skills and celebrate the spirit of Special Olympics in alternating World Summer and World Winter Games.  The first Special Olympics World Games took place in 1968 and since then have evolved into a world-class sporting event, attracting a wide range of sponsors, supporters and media. Special Olympics World Games bring public attention to the talents and capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities and are a capstone to more than 50,000 competitions that happen at all levels of Special Olympics each year.

For more information about the upcoming 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games, please visit the Games’ official website at

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 4 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs.  Special Olympics now takes place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities in all countries of the world  to the community playgrounds and ball fields in every small neighborhood’s backyard. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics;;, and   

About Law Enforcement Torch Run

Celebrating its 32st Anniversary in 2013, the Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) for Special Olympics is the movement's largest grass-roots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle, encompassing a variety of events including Torch Runs, Polar Plunge® events and the World's Largest Truck Convoy® fundraiser.  More than 100,000 international law enforcement officers have carried the Flame of Hope™ to the Opening Ceremonies of local and state/provincial Special Olympics competitions and Games, and Special Olympics World Summer or Winter Games.  The LETR is now present in all 50 U.S. states, 12 Canadian provinces and 48 nations around the world.  In 2011 the LETR raised more than US$42 million for Special Olympics Programs around the world and has raised more than US$414 million since its inception in 1981.

Media Contact re. torch lighting:

Kristin Hughes