After nine days of sporting events and festivities, thousands of athletes said goodbye to Los Angeles on Sunday in an emotional closing ceremony for the Special Olympics marked by cheers, tears and pride.
Held at the LA Memorial Coliseum, the same site as the kickoff, the closing ceremony honored the 6,500 athletes, 2,000 coaches and 10,000 volunteers who participated in the Games.
Carly Rae Jepsen, O.A.R. and Andra Day headlined the event.
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“The closing ceremony is our chance to celebrate the accomplishments of all of our competing athletes, as well as the countless families, volunteers, host town communities and corporate partners that made these World Games possible, said Patrick McClenahan, president and chief executive of LA 2015, in a statement.
"These Games have been life-changing and we hope that this will only be a spark that will light the world on fire with the enthusiasm, courage, and acceptance and inclusion for all people with intellectual disabilities.”
The closing ceremony began at 6 p.m.
The colorful Special Olympics flag was lowered and presented to a delegation from Austria, where the Winter Games will be held in 2017.
A five-minute video showed highlights of the competitions and a flame that was lit in the Coliseum cauldron at the game opening was extinguished.
The athletes were welcomed on July 25 in a star-studded ceremony at the arena, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics.
The Special Olympics, which began in 1968, was the brainchild of President John Kennedy's sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver. That first year's games in Chicago drew about 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada.
Organizers say this year's Special Olympics will be the largest sports and humanitarian event in the world in 2015.