Volunteers, family and delegation members from Ireland, the Caribbean and the Pacific island of Samoa enjoyed a fun night of celebration together on the eve of the Opening Ceremony.
These Teams have more in common that just being island nations. The party at Athen’s Royal Olympic Hotel, with breathtaking views of the Acropolis and Temple of Zeus, was hosted by Irishman Denis O’Brien. He is Patron of Special Olympics Ireland but also Chairman of Digicel, the largest mobile telecommunications company in the Caribbean and Pacific and a patron of Special Olympics.
The Digicel story is a wonderful testament of how corporate partnership can help our movement grow. Serving as Chairman of the 2003 World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland Denis brought this message of hope, respect and inclusion to his operations in the Caribbean and Pacific.
“Eighty percent of the Caribbean Island programes are here in Athens because of the support of Digicel and that includes Team Haiti. Special Olympics didn’t exist in some of our islands until Digicel arrived and gave volunteers the resources to formally establish programs” said Maureen Weber, President of Special Olympics Caribbean enjoying the party alongside Haiti Global Messenger David Rosenthal.
The same rings true in the Pacific. The 2011 Games is the first to include a team from a Pacific Island and we welcome Team Samoa of eight young athletes, to Athens. In a country where people with intellectual disabilities are often hidden away, the documentary team at Attitude Productions are chronicaling their extraordinary journey.
Pepe Christian Fruean, General Manager of Digicel Samoa, led the Samoan team in the Parade of Athletes during the Opening Ceremony wearing little other than his traditional tibal dress and body tattoo. “When Denis O’Brien first told me to support the establishment of Special Olympics in Samoa, I didn’t really understand the movement. I thought it was a nice idea but not hugely significant. Now I’m happy to say that my thinking has turned 360 degrees. Being involved in Special Olympics has taught me so much. I now want to help Special Olympics grow in more of our islands across the region. I’m full of ideas!”.