The ceremony also featured Maria Naber, a dancer with intellectual disabilities who performed a theatrical interpretation, dancing with Dundu dolls (magical light creatures), cheeky Glöckner (bell ringers) and jesters, traditional musicians and the wild Perchten (evil spirits).
The Parade of Athletes featured numerous original musical creations. Singer Rose May Alaba performed the Coca-Cola Unified song while the 105 delegations entered the stadium.
The delegations were accompanied by Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman Special Olympics International, and Mary Davis, CEO Special Olympics International, and members of the Special Olympics International Board of Directors, including ice-skating legend Michelle Kwan, gold medalists NBA legend Sam Perkins and Olympic swimmer Donna De Varona, Vice Chairman Angelo Moratti, and Princess Charlene of Monaco.
Prominent supporters walked with delegations, including singer/songwriter Jason Mraz; John Skipper, President, ESPN Inc. and co-chairman Disney Media Networks; Princess Nora of Liechtenstein; Archduke Guillaume of Luxembourg; Minister Hans Peter Doskozil; Minister Wolfgang Sobotka; Governor of Styria Hermann Schützenhöfer; president of the BSO (Austrian Sports Organisation) Rudolf Hundstorfer; Klaus Eberhartinger (Entertainer); Fritz Kristoferitsch (Bandleader Edlseer); Heather Mills; the Austrian skiers Conny Hütter and Christian Walder; former skiers Peter Wirnsberger, Reinfried Herbst, Marco Büchel, Emese Hunyady; and Harry Winkler, president of the Austrian Soccer “Bundesliga”; Hans Rinner and many more.
Following the Parade of Athletes, a tribute video for the late president of Special Olympics Austria, Hermann Kröll, highlighted his long-term commitment to Special Olympics and globalization of the movement. Kröll was instrumental in bringing the Special Olympics World Winter Games to Austria twice and was a constant champion to improving the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Dr. Timothy Shriver remembered Hermann Kröll saying, “There was the heartbeat of Special Olympics Austria and Styria and it was Hermann Kröll and we still hold Hermann Kröll as the heartbeat tonight.” He added, “Every Special Olympics athlete has a story to tell, of grit, determination and overcoming obstacles. There will be those who say exclude. There will be those who say our athletes don’t deserve a chance. Athletes, you know better.”
Following the lighting of the cauldron, the ceremony concluded with fireworks and performances by European megastar Helene Fischer and, two-time Grammy winner Jason Mraz accompanied by America´s Got Talent winner Grace VanderWaal performing “I´m yours” and “I won´t give up” together with VanderWaal.
For photos from the Opening Ceremony, please visit: