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A very Special Olympics in Pyeongchang

Posted February. 06, 2013 06:35,   


The 2013 Pyeongchang Winter Special Olympics World Games ended Tuesday. The 8-day grand event attracted 3,000 athletes from 106 countries, as well as 2,800 volunteers who displayed a strong sense of community spirit and soul. The mood was different from the regular Olympics in which a far smaller number of star athletes are praised.

On Jan. 30, a Special Olympics culture event was held at a concert hall in Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province. Baek Ji-yoon, a young ballerina with Down`s syndrome, appeared in the ballet and music program. Her mother recalled how desperate she was after finding out that her child had been born with the disease. Her daughter dreamed of being a ballerina when she saw "The Nutcracker" as a sixth grader. After experiencing rejections, she was finally accepted by a ballet school. Baek cried numerous times while training but never gave up hope. "I liked ballet because I didn`t have to feel isolated," she said. In a performance with Korean National Ballet ballerinas, she performed an excellent woman`s solo in the Peasant Pas de Dues part from Giselle. She received no medal or award, but still felt a sense of pride.

Park Moses sang the national anthem in the opening ceremony. The 21-year-old man was born without a skull on the back of his head and so his brain stuck out. His mother decided to give birth to him despite the doctor`s recommendation for an abortion. He had to undergo surgery immediately after birth and was sent to an incubator with bits of thread wound up on his head. After several brain surgeries, he was able to survive. He began talking at age 5 and singing at 7. His story is another "miracle of Moses." In the opening ceremony, he sang the national anthem in front of 4,000 people who filled the Yongpyeong Dome. The doctor had said he would eventually die, but Park survived and shone a light of hope to many people with physically challenges.

The Special Olympics featured seven events including alpine and cross-country skiing and figure and speed skating, in a friendly competition for 55 gold medals. Competitors overcame vast prejudice and discrimination. The mentally disabled said they want a sense of community, not sympathy. Volunteers displayed this very "together" spirit. The disabled should be everyone`s neighbors. The Special Olympics should not remain a one-time event.

Editorial Writer Choi Yeong-hae (yhchoi65@donga.com)