Special Olympics World Winter Games come to an end

Posted: Monday, March 12, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Cross country skier Sarah Maas of Anchorage joined Alaska Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer in extinguishing the Special Olympics Flame of Hope on Sunday night, officially ending the 2001 World Winter Games Alaska.

The games ended as they began, with a rousing send-off at the Sullivan Arena, this time with remarks from Miss USA Kandace Krueger and Special Olympics founder Eunice Shriver. Then athletes swarmed the floor for a final ''victory dance'' with whatever energy they had left over from the competition.

More than 2,400 athletes and coaches from 69 countries took part in the eight-day affair, billed as Alaska's largest sporting event. Organizers handed out 1,400 gold, medal and silver medals and thousands of ribbons to athletes in alpine skiing, cross country skiing, floor hockey, figure skating, speed skating, snowshoeing and snowboarding.

Shriver reminded athletes that they had pledged to be proud to play.

''You have fulfilled that pledge and the world of Special Olympics thanks you very much,'' she said.

''To the people of Alaska, I say, you have created the best winter games in the history of Special Olympics,'' she said.

Four Alaska athletes, figure skaters Melanie Flowers of Wasilla and Alex Cain of Fairbanks, snowshoer Shaunti Johnson of Homer, and cross country skier Katie Kremer of Nome, helped lower the Special Olympics flag, fold it and hand it to an Irish athlete representing Dublin, site of the 2003 summer games.

World games are scheduled every other year, alternating between summer and winter games.

Melissa Anderson, chief operating officer for the games organizing committee, pronounced the games a success.

''The week was outstanding,'' Anderson said. ''It far exceeded all expectations.''

Mild weather ideal for outdoor activities, a transportation system that operated without glitches and competition without major disruptions contributed to the week's success.

Anderson said the highlight was the efforts of the volunteer work force. More than 6,000 people signed up to prepare food, officiate competition, take tickets or provide other services. Anderson said most volunteers returned to venues after their official duties ended, rooting on athletes.

''We had packed houses from Day One,'' she said.

Anderson reported two injuries that were serious enough to warrant trips to the hospital. One alpine skier needed shoulder surgery after a fall and another needed elbow surgery.

''Probably our biggest problem was sheer dehydration at the beginning of the week,'' Anderson said. Athletes from humid countries had to be reminded to drink water after spending 20 or more hours on aircraft and encountering dry air in Anchorage.

Anderson said she was confident that Anchorage's host learning program would be repeated at future Special Olympics international games. The program matched schools with teams months in advance of the competition.

School children had the opportunity to learn about countries they were paired with. Some schools hosted athletes for dinners or meetings with students, and students turned out at venues to cheer for their teams.



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