With live music, dancing, and lots of cheering, there was no shortage of excitement Tuesday morning at the opening ceremony for the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Championships.
More than 400 athletes and coaches from across Canada are in P.E.I. for the championships. It's the first time the Island has hosted the games — and also the first major event in North America of the Special Olympics' 50th-anniversary year.
"It makes me feel proud, very proud," said P.E.I. athlete Jenna Smith.
Smith said she felt chills as she witnessed everyone's excitement during the opening ceremony.
Months of preparation
This event has been months in the making. With three competition venues — Charlottetown, Tyne Valley and Summerside, P.E.I. — lots of planning went into schedules, transportation and accommodation.
And there are other considerations, like accessible transport and restricted diets.
"It's a big deal for the athletes, it's a big deal for the coaches involved, but it's a big deal for the communities of Summerside, Tyne Valley and Charlottetown," said Cecil Villard, co-chair of the event.
"They are going to get to experience Special Olympics, they are going to get to experience the athletes, and the excitement associated with the games,"
Following the opening ceremony teams had the chance for one last practice Tuesday afternoon.
Competition begins Wednesday and the games are set to wrap up Saturday.
Paul Phillips from Summerside has been competing with Special Olympics for about 30 years, and this year will mark his 7th national championships. Phillips said he thinks competing in P.E.I. will give the team a hometown advantage.
"That support will affect my ability to bowl … as my personal best," Phillips said.
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