'Flame of Hope' for 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games Lit in Athens, Greece, Launching First Global Torch Run

Ceremony at sacred site near Acropolis marks official beginning of Global

Law Enforcement Torch Run(R) to Shanghai, sponsored and supported by DHL

Jun 29, 2007, 01:00 ET from Special Olympics

    ATHENS, Greece, June 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a ceremony
 honoring the spirit of the Special Olympics movement and the courage of its
 athletes, the "Flame of Hope" for the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer
 Games was lit today in Athens, Greece, officially launching the Global Law
 Enforcement Torch Run. Carried by a team of Special Olympics athletes and
 law enforcement officers through the streets of Athens, the torch now
 departs Greece to begin its global journey to the site of the World Games
 in Shanghai, China, supported by the expertise of Global Torch Run sponsor
 DHL, the world's leading express delivery and logistics company.
     The Global Law Enforcement Torch Run will be a pivotal event in the
 lead- up to the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games. While the Torch
 Run has been a Special Olympics tradition for more than 25 years, this
 marks the first time the "Flame of Hope" has traveled the globe in a single
 event. Transported via DHL's global logistics network and then carried by
 torch on the ground by teams of athletes and law enforcement personnel from
 around the world, the flame will travel more than 35,000 kilometers (22,000
 miles), touching down on five continents over the next three months before
 arriving in Shanghai, where it will ignite the cauldron at the Opening
 Ceremony of the 2007 World Games on 2 October.
     The flame itself was lit just after 11 a.m. local time this morning (4
 a.m. ET in North America) using the rays of the sun at the sacred site of
 Pnyx, located across from the Acropolis, in a ceremony hosted by Special
 Olympics Greece and attended by Anna Benaki-Psarouda, President of the
 Greek Parliament, Special Olympics International Chairman Timothy P.
 Shriver, Natasa Karamanlis, wife of the Prime Minister of Greece, DHL
 Express Asia Pacific Acting CEO Dan McHugh, Coca-Cola President and Chief
 Operating Officer Muhtar Kent, senior representatives of the 2007 Games
 Organizing Committee, government and diplomatic officials from China and
 Greece, law enforcement officers, and Special Olympics athletes and their
     The flame will next make its way to Egypt, where welcoming ceremonies
 and Torch Run celebrations will take place in Alexandria and Cairo. Other
 stops on the route will include London, Washington D.C., and a dozen cities
 throughout China as well as the 19 districts of Shanghai.
     "The Special Olympics movement provides a unique global platform for
 acceptance and inclusion, and the Flame of Hope's journey around the world
 is symbolic of our mission to not only give new hope to Special Olympics
 athletes and their families, but also to break down barriers and create
 awareness for social change around the world," said Shriver. "We are
 pleased to be partnering with DHL to help us honor our athletes for their
 tremendous courage and commitment -- on the field of play and in every
 aspect of their lives. We are also extremely appreciative for the continued
 commitment and support by the international law enforcement community on
 behalf of the Torch Run."
     "DHL's sponsorship endorses Special Olympics as a catalyst for social
 change by promoting fair opportunities and supporting diversity, which is
 part of our corporate values," said McHugh. "We hope to reinforce the
 spirit of determination, mental endurance and physical stamina among
 individuals, including our staff. Just as Special Olympics athletes triumph
 over all obstacles to compete on this world stage, DHL is committed to
 overcome logistics challenges to move the flame around the globe, sharing
 the vision of hope with the Special Olympics athletes."
     The 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai will host
 almost 7,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities from more than 160
 countries. The Law Enforcement Torch Run is Special Olympics' largest
 grass-roots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle, involving more than
 85,000 law enforcement officials around the world.
     Following the 2007 World Games, the "Flame of Hope" will reside at a
 DHL facility as a tribute to Special Olympics. DHL will also sponsor the
 Global Torch Run in 2009, when the "Flame of Hope" will again be lit in
 Athens and transported by DHL to the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter
 Games in Boise, Idaho, USA.
     The Olympic torch was lit in Athens for the first time in 1896, and
 today continues to serve as a symbol of strength and determination for
 athletes from around the world. Special Olympics recently announced its
 2011 World Summer Games will be held in Athens.
     About Special Olympics
     Special Olympics is an international nonprofit organization dedicated
 to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become
 physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports
 training and competition. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver,
 Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and competition to 2.5
 million adults and children with intellectual disabilities across 165
 countries. The Special Olympics movement offers one of the world's greatest
 platforms for acceptance and inclusion for all people -- regardless of
 race, religion, ethnicity or cultural differences. Find out how you can
 become involved at http://www.specialolympics.org.
     About DHL
     DHL is the global market leader of the international express and
 logistics industry, specializing in providing innovative and customized
 solutions from a single source. DHL offers expertise in express, air and
 ocean freight, overland transport, contract logistic solutions as well as
 international mail services, combined with worldwide coverage and an
 in-depth understanding of local markets. DHL's international network links
 more than 220 countries and territories worldwide. 285,000 employees are
 dedicated to providing fast and reliable services that exceed customers'
 expectations. DHL is a Deutsche Post World Net brand. The group generated
 revenues of more than euro 60 billion in 2006. For the latest news and
 happenings about DHL in Asia Pacific, please visit http://press.ap.dhl.com
     About the Law Enforcement Torch Run
     The Law Enforcement Torch Run has been a Special Olympics tradition for
 more than 25 years. It began in 1981 when Wichita, Kansas, Police Chief
 Richard LaMunyon saw a need to raise funds and increase awareness for the
 organization, and conceived the Torch Run as a way to involve local law
 enforcement personnel in the community and to support Special Olympics
 Kansas. The program was later adopted by the International Association of
 Chiefs of Police and under their support and leadership has expanded into
 all 50 U.S. states and to 35 nations. The Law Enforcement Torch Run is
 Special Olympics' largest grass-roots fundraiser and public awareness
 vehicle; more than 85,000 law enforcement officers from around the world
 volunteer for the movement.

SOURCE Special Olympics