Lighting The Flame: Inside Opening Ceremonies
The Opening Ceremonies of the International Children’s Game was truly a special event. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom welcomed the athletes and the lighting the Olympic Torch was met with song, dance and celebration from around the world. As well, the event created the opportunity for all the children participating in the Games to be together as a group for the first time.
An hour before the festivities started, all of the athletes gathered in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. This proved to be a new experience for the athletes and an incredible spectacle for anyone who was lucky enough to catch it.
Imagine more than a thousand children from every continent in the world speaking a wide array of languages and socializing with cultures so different from their own. With each delegation proudly donning their unique uniform, the stage was set for the meeting of a lifetime.
Being children, the initial moments of the gathering were timid. However, once the ice was broken, a path for smiles and laughter was permanently paved. The children ran around turning strangers in to friends, posing for photos and speaking to people they never dreamed they could meet.
One of the simplest yet most powerful aspects of this unique environment was the trading of gifts and objects. Each athlete brought a bunch of small gifts typical of their homeland to distribute to their new friends. The Nairobi, Kenya squad brought beautiful beaded bracelets while the Tralee, Ireland team had four-leaf clover pins.
The gifts served a powerful purpose of encouraging children to interact with each other and meet athletes from every delegation. Before you knew it, the Daegu, South Korean kids were sporting American flags and the Reykjavik, Iceland children were holding postcards from Jerusalem.
“I have never seen anything like this before in my life,” said Junior, an athlete representing Kumasi, Ghana. “It was special to give and receive gifts from people who I never met before. Everyone is so friendly and I feel as if I’ve already made friends that I will keep for my whole life.”
Junior traveled a total of 17 hours from his home country of Ghana to make it all the way to San Francisco, California. He described the Opening Ceremonies as, “The coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of,” and hasn’t been able to get a smile off his face since arriving.
After the meet and greet, all the delegates lined up with their national flags and proudly entered into the procession ceremony. Last evening represented only one of the many events that will take place over the next four days. With so much action still on the horizon, the memorable and lifelong experiences for these lucky children continue to take place.