Special Olympics Flame of Hope Lit In Greece

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Officially beginning the countdown to the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles, the Special Olympics Flame of Hope was lit today during a torch-lighting ceremony in Greece.

The torch was lit at Pnyx, near the Acropolis in Athens. Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015 President/CEO Patrick McClenahan was among the dignitaries on hand for the event. "In just 73 days, this Flame of Hope will ignite the cauldron in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games,"

McClenahan said. "It will signify the start of the largest event Los Angeles has hosted since 1984, the largest sports and humanitarian event in the world this year, and, we believe, one of the most inspirational events of all time."

After the torch was lit, it was carried to the residence of U.S. Ambassador David Pearce, then entrusted to the Presidential Guard for safekeeping until it begins its journey to the United States. The Flame of Hope will leave Greece via UPS Airlines on Monday, with stops in Germany and Philadelphia, where it will then be loaded into a UPS vehicle and taken to the Special Olympics headquarters in Washington, D.C. The flame will then be used to three torches that will be carried across the country beginning May 26 from Washington, D.C.; Augusta, Maine; and Miami, Florida.

The three routes will touch all 50 states, with the trio of torches reunited again on July 10 in Los Angeles. The flame will be taken on a 13-day tour of more than 120 cities and towns across California, ending with the opening ceremony of the Games at the Coliseum on July 25.

The team carrying the flame across California will include people from law enforcement, Special Olympics athletes and runners from 49 states and 24 countries around the world.

About 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing 177 countries are expected to participate in the Games, which will run from July 25 to Aug. 2.

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