While the crowd for the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics Winter Alpine Games at Appalachian Ski Mountain was much smaller, it was as enthusiastic as anything Sochi will have to offer.
One hundred and fifty Special Olympians from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida spent three days this week at the Winter Alpine Games in Blowing Rock.
On Sunday, everyone participated in opening ceremonies and enjoyed a number of practice runs. On Monday and Tuesday, the athletes competed in snowboard and skiing competitions.
During the opening ceremonies, Watauga County special athlete Ricky Corley was handed the Olympic torch from Watauga County Sheriff’s Deputy Toby Ragan and lit the Special Olympics cauldron.
Other police and emergency personnel on hand were Capt. Aaron Miller and Sgt. Dan White of the Blowing Rock Police Department and Marianna Durfur and Colton Sobolewski of Watauga County Rescue.
Longtime Special Olympics organizers and contributors at the opening ceremony included Keron Poteat of Watauga County Parks and Recreation, Rochell Laney of Special Olympics North Carolina, Hugh Sturgill, Jim Cottrell of French-Swiss Ski College and the Rev. Marion Swann.
After giving the official Special Olympics prayer and singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” Swann was recognized for his 31 years of service to the Winter Alpine Games and given a special plaque of appreciation on behalf of Special Olympics North Carolina.