Special Olympics Florida

Lighting of Flame of Hope in Athens, Greece

Flame is bound for Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019

The Flame of Hope torch lighting ceremony of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 took place today at the Zappeion Palace in Athens, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics.


Iliana Symeonidou, High Priestess and Special Olympics Hellas athlete pictured lighting the cauldron with the Flame of Hope torch during the ceremony in Athens, Greece which took place ahead of the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.


Special Olympics athletes who will participate at World Games were present at the ceremony. Dignitaries who attended the ceremony included, among others, President of Special Olympics Hellas Ambassador ad.h. Dionyssios Kodellas, Minister of National Defense Evangelos Apostolakis, Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports Giorgios Vassiliadis, Figure skating champion and member of the Board of Special Olympics International Michelle Kwan, President and Managing Director of Special Olympics MENA region Ayman Abdel Wahab, Managing Director of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 Khalfan Al Mazrouei, President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia region David Evangelista, Board member of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Georgios Agouridis and Senior Advisor to the Board of Directors and Member of the Executive Management Team of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Ambassador ad.h. Vassilis Kaskarelis. 

The Flame of Hope is set to make its journey to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) where the upcoming Special Olympics World Games will take place March 14 – 21. This will be the first time the Flame of Hope has come to the Middle East.


Torch Run through Athens, Greece which followed the Torch Lighting Ceremony at the Zappeion Palace on February 27, 2019


In line with Special Olympics tradition, members of the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics – the Guardians of the Flame – will transport the Flame of Hope along the entire journey to Abu Dhabi.

When the flame arrives in the UAE, it will be carried throughout all seven emirates in the 10-day Law Enforcement Torch Run® Final Leg before concluding its journey at the Opening Ceremony of the World Games on March 14.

Khalfan Al Mazrouei, Managing Director at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said: “The Special Olympics Flame of Hope has become a globally-recognized symbol for inclusion, courage and diversity.

“In two weeks’ time, when the World Games officially begin, we will celebrate determination at sports arenas and playing fields across the UAE. It is our hope that these World Games will create real long-term change and a future where every person is valued, accepted, and have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.”

Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 is the largest sports and social inclusion event in the world, this year featuring 7,500 athletes from more than 190 nations who will compete in 24 Olympic-style sports across nine venues in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.