Walt Disney World Celebrates Inclusion with Special Olympics Florida Summer Games

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (May 19, 2023) – Inclusion and friendly competition were the themes of the night as Walt Disney World Resort hosted the Special Olympics Florida Summer Games opening ceremony on May 19, 2023. Nearly 2,000 athletes from every region of the state participated in the ceremony which was held inside The Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The Opening Ceremony included a special appearance by Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and friends. The celebration ended with the traditional Law Enforcement Torch Run with more than 100 emergency vehicles circling The Stadium, escorting 100 Special Olympics athletes and law enforcement officials carrying the Flame of Hope to light the cauldron. The emotional moment was followed by a magical fireworks show announcing the official start of the games. 
 
“Here at Walt Disney World our primary focus is the athletes, and we want them first and most importantly, to have fun and stay safe,” said Maryann Smith, Walt Disney World Vice President of Customer Experience. But I also want them to have the ability to use this weekend to showcase their athletic ability while inspiring others through their actions and being a true hero for their family, themselves, and the community. 
 
“Our entire team, including our athletes, our families, our coaches, everyone absolutely enjoys being at ESPN Wide World of Sports,” said Sherry Wheelock, President and CEO of Special Olympics Florida. Of course, Disney is the Most Magical Place on Earth, and everyone is just thrilled to be here. 
 
Walt Disney World Resort has been a partner with Special Olympics Florida since 1986 and has hosted the Summer Games at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for more than 15 years. The facility also hosted the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.