Fireworks explode in the sky to mark the opening of the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, eastern China on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007. [Photo: Xinhua]
Chinese President Hu Jintao declared open the 2007 Special Olympic World Summer Games at the opening ceremony in Shanghai on Tuesday.
A record 7,291 athletes from 164 countries and regions are set to take part in the 21-sport Games slated for Oct. 2-11 in Shanghai, with the eldest aged 69 and the youngest at 8.
Marking the first time the Games have been held in Asia, the Games also welcome 2,302 trainers, more than 20,000 family members of the intellectual disabled athletes, celebrities, VIPs and some 40,000 volunteers from all over the world.
The three-hour-long opening ceremony was visually striking with dazzling lighting, fireworks, costumes and overwhelming music.
The extravagant ceremony, featuring 5,800 performers, started with a drum show called "Harmony: Hearts Beating As One", performed by actors with intellectual disabilities.
"Individually each drum produces a unique sound, but together each separate sound complements the other to create a unified single chord which expresses the Special Olympics spirit of harmony and embrace, " music director Liu Tong revealed just ahead of the ceremony.
"I hope the music can express the Special Olympics' spirit to the world and let all the people be surprised by the talent and courage of the Special Olympics athletes," added Liu.
After the drum performance, the gala show was led into four chapters of performance, characterized apiece by the four themes of the Special Olympics spirit, namely courage, sharing, skill and joy.
Amid the performance, some of the leading singers, actors and musicians from home and abroad also made the appearance and gave extra sparkle to the absorbing feast at the Shanghai Stadium, performing their masterpieces or interacting with athletes and the audience.
But it was the Chinese athletes in the parade that stole the limelight, drawing thunderous applauses from a capacity crowd of 80,000.
The host country sent the biggest delegation on record, consisting of 1,274 athletes over 21 official events and four performance events, namely cricket, dragon boat, dragon-lion dance and Motor Activities Training Program.
More than one-third of the athletes from China's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities are from Shanghai.
The criteria for Special Olympic athletes is that they should be at least eight years old, have an IQ lower than 70 and take part in some sports activities no less than eight weeks a year.
Since 1987, China has sent delegations to summer and winter Special Olympics World Games. The size of the Chinese delegation has increased for each event.
With the goal to help bring all persons with intellectual disabilities into society, the 10-day Games will also feature activities like "Global Summit for Health and Welfare of People with Intellectual Disabilities," "Global Youth Summit" attended by both intellectually disabled youths and regular youths and "Global Family Forum".
Even before the Games lifted its curtain, the athletes have first taken part in the Host Town Program on their arrival in China. During the program, many athletes and their families got the chance to stay with Chinese families in 12 cities, including Shanghai, Xi'an and Dalian.
According to the China Disabled Persons' Federation, China has about 12 million intellectually disabled people. Globally there are 170 million, accounting for three percent of the world population.