Opening Ceremony in Schladming will turn the Stadium into a Visual Dream World

The set up works for the big opening ceremony of the World Winter Games 2017 on March 18 in Schladming are more or less finished and one glimpse at Planai Stadium is enough to know: the official kick-off of the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 will be a spectacular show. Not only due to the impressive stands that have been constructed at the bottom of the WC-slope and will accommodate approximately 15,000 persons, but also due to the elaborate choreography and show that will be peppered with attractions.

Starting at 7pm Planai Stadium will turn into a visual dream world and the audience will be able to witness a show in celebration of life and happiness. In addition to various ski show acts and the performance of futuristic light creatures that will relate an inclusion-themed interactive story together with the dancers of the Vienna State Ballet and supported by members of the Dance Company “Ich bin O.K.” (I am ok), also various groups from Styria will present traditional customs and music (“Perchten” [men in traditional, elaborately carved wooden masks] and Glöckler [men wearing huge elaborately decorated hats and heavy bells on their backs] – both customs to drive out evil spirits; traditional Austrian marching and ethno/folk bands) and be part of the spectacular two-hour show.

The emotional highlight for athletes, families and spectators will definitely be the parade of all 107 participating delegations, flanked by national and international notables. Among others the following renowned personalities will accompany the delegations: Princess Charlene of Monaco, Princess Nora of Liechtenstein, Jason Mraz, Helene Fischer, Heather Mills, Olympic snowboard champion Hannah Teter, ice-hockey legend Viacheslav Fetisov, top model Natalia Vodianova and US TV star Jillian Michaels.

Also renowned personalities from Austria will accompany the delegations, among them: former soccer player Johnny Ertl, President of the Austrian Football Association Hans Rinner, former ski stars Reinfried Herbst, Peter Wirnsberger, Achim Theurl-Walcher, and Harry Winkler as well as entertainer Klaus Eberhartinger, and Federal Minister of Defense and Sports Hans Peter Doskozil.

The Special Olympic flag will come to Schladming from high above and will be carried into the stadium by 6 honorary flag bearers who are ambassadors of the World Winter Games and local sport icons: Trixi Schuba, Alexander Pointner, Mario Stecher, Benni and Marlies Raich and Michael Tritscher.

The Special Olympics “Flame of Hope” will be brought onto the stage by 120 flame bearers and 7 Special Olympics athletes – through a guard of honor of policemen and -women. Former world cup ski racer Renate Götschl will have the honor to recite the Olympic oath together with one of the athletes. The 41-year-old from Styria and forth most successful ski racer in the history of the world cup is also an ambassador of the World Winter Games.

The Opening Ceremony has been choreographed by Verena Kriegerl, Patrick Dunst, Richard Sonntag und Tobias Kuner and will also set off a firework of music: Rose May Alaba will perform theCoca-Cola Unified Song and musical star Anna Maria Kaufmann will sing the Anthem of Europe. However, the undisputed star acts will be Helene Fischer from Germany, and multiple Grammy Award-winner Jason Mraz from the United States. The former is currently the most successful singer in German-speaking countries and already proved her big heart for the cause of Special Olympics by agreeing to appear for free. The latter has had big hits all over the globe with “I’m yours” and “I won’t give up” and will be the final act of the Opening Ceremony together with choirs from Schladming.

Overview of the individual acts of the Opening Ceremony:

  • Parade of the 107 participating nations
  • Tribute to Hermann Kröll
  • Hoisting of the Special Olympics flag that will be brought into the stadium by Trixi Schuba, Alexander Pointner, Mario Stecher, Benni and Marlies Raich and Michael Tritscher
  • Olympic oath by “Speed Queen” Renate Götschl and one Special Olympics Athlete.
  • Official opening by Austria’s Federal President Dr. Alexander Van der Bellen
  • Ignition of the “Flame of Hope”
  • Speeches by: Jürgen Winter (President Special Olympics Austria), Timothy Shriver (Chairman Special Olympics International), Dr. Alexander Van der Bellen (Federal President of Austria)
  • Music acts: Helene Fischer, Jason Mraz, Rose May Alaba, Anna Maria Kaufmann
  • Big firework

Andreas Gabalier “unplugged” at Closing Ceremony

Of course, the Games also have to have a grand conclusion. The Closing Ceremony will be a party for the numerous volunteers. Superstar Helene Fischer will again perform on March 24 at the Merkur Arena in Graz, just as Rose May Alaba. For local hero Andreas Gabalier it will be the first time to perform – “unplugged” – at his “home stadium”. Grace VanderWaal, winner of last year’s edition of “America’s Got Talent” who has been storming the charts ever since will be the final musical act.

The show will include a colorful and diversified program with dance choreographies, performance artists, various video clips and acrobatics as well as the handing over of the flag to representatives from Abu Dhabi, where the next Special Olympics World Games will take place in 2019. And before the “Flame of Hope” will slowly but surely go out, the whole audience at the Merkur Arena will pay visual homage to the motto of the World Winter Games 2017: “Heartbeat for the World” by turning the stadium into a sea of shining red hearts thanks to a special function of the “Austria2017-App”.

Highlights of the Closing Ceremony:

  • Music acts: Helene Fischer, Andreas Gabalier, Grace VanderWaal, Rose May Alaba
  • Handing over the flag to the host of the World Games 2019, Abu Dhabi, and presentation of the Games 2019.
  • Various acrobatics show acts, e.g. from the Cirque du Soleil
  • Dance performances by “Ich bin O.K.-Company“ and Louis van Amstel/Pierre Gider
  • Speeches: Special Olympics athlete, Mary Davis (CEO Special Olympics International), Siegfried Nagl (Mayor Graz),
  • Sea of shining hearts at the stadium (interactive via Austria2017 app)
  • Big firework 

TV live coverage

ORF Sport+:

  • Opening Ceremony, March 18 (6.50pm to 9pm)
  • Closing Ceremony, March 24 (6.45pm to 21pm)


The Opening Ceremony will by available in Europe via the ESPN Streaming Service at:


General information

Opening Ceremony: Saturday, March 18, Location: Planai Stadium, Schladming.

Admission: 6pm

Start: 7pm (no late admission possible!)

Tickets: or through Hohenhaus Tenne (

Closing Ceremony: Friday, March 24, Location: Merkur Arena Graz.  

Admission: 6pm

Start: 7pm (no late admission possible!)




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