The world's largest sports and humanitarian event this year - the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria - today announced two very special performances for the event's Opening Ceremony on Saturday, March 18, 2017. Performers include multi-Grammy award-winning folk-pop songsmith Jason Mraz and 13-year old winner of America's Got Talent Grace VanderWaal.
Nearly 2,700 athletes and 1,000 coaches representing 107 nations will be welcomed at the Opening Ceremony, held at the Planai Stadium in Schladming, a regular stop on the World Cup circuit and site of the 2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
To honor the athletes, Jason Mraz will be planning a special performance which will be a powerful unification of Special Olympics youth/athletes and the groundbreaking new music and arts education program that is supported by the Jason Mraz Foundation, called LIVE ART. Children from a local Schladming music program will also participate in the performance. Mraz will perform his record-setting song, "I'm Yours," as well as his hit song "I Won't Give Up" - which he will perform alongside VanderWaal, LIVE ART participants and the local Schladming choir. "I'm incredibly honored to be asked to perform during the Opening Ceremony, celebrating the courage, determination and spirit of every Special Olympics athlete who traveled to compete in these Games," said Jason Mraz. "Special Olympics is an organization that I feel embraces the skills and talents of every person and I do the same thing through my work with LIVE ART."
LIVE ART is an equally inclusive program for both students with and without disabilities, of all ages, who work together for a year using performing arts to share messages of acceptance, compassion and empathy. Mraz works as an artistic advisor and funder alongside LIVE ART Director Erin Thomas-Foley, creating an inspiring culminating performance each year featuring nationally recognized recording artists performing with the students. The program is produced by SPARC, The School of the Performing Arts in Richmond, Virginia where Jason studied as a child. www.sparconline.org/liveart
Princess Charlene of Monaco, Special Olympics Global Ambassador and Olympic Gold Medalist Hannah Teter, American short track speed skating Olympic champion Apolo Ohno, Hall of Famer and Special Olympics Global Ambassador and Board Member Dikembe Mutombo, Olympic figure-skating legend and Special Olympics International Board Member Michelle Kwan and NBA Legend and Special Olympics
International Board Member Sam Perkins, and other distinguished personalities will cheer on the athletes at the Planai. A global audience can watch coverage provided by ESPN, an official broadcast partner of the World Games. ESPN is distributing the Opening Ceremony around the world in multiple languages. Tickets to the Opening Ceremony and this once-in-a-lifetime experience are available for purchase via www.oeticket.com.
More than 20,000 fans including families, volunteers, Heads of State, Ministers of Sport, and celebrities including trainer and television personality Jillian Michaels and ballroom dance champion, professional dancer and choreographer Louie Van Amstel will attend the Games and cheer on the athletes over the eight days of competition.
"The whole world will come to Austria and will celebrate a big sports and social event with us. We look forward to welcoming all athletes and coaches and guests in Graz, Schladming and Ramsau," said Marc Angelini and Max Pichler, the two CEOs from Austria2017. More than four years preparation are nearly over and the Organizing Committee is ready for the Games. Angelini and Pichler added, "We hope that it's going to be an unforgettable event for everybody!"
Specific details of the night's event, which will include the Parade of Athletes and culmination of the Final Leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run® that will light the World Games cauldron, are being kept under wraps until closer to the event.
The World Games will be hosted from 14 March-25 March and feature 9 Olympic-style sports: Floorball, Floor Hockey, Stick Shooting, Figure Skating, Short Track Speed Skating, Alpine Skiing, Snowboarding, Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing. These Games will showcase the unlimited potential of people with intellectual disabilities - the largest disability population in the world. Competitions will take place in the cities of Graz, Schladming, Rohrmoos and Ramsau. All competitions are free and open to the public. Plan your outing to support the athletes by checking out the competition schedule here: Austria 2017 Games Schedule.
The Opening Ceremony will take place at the Planai Stadium in Schladming, Austria on Saturday, March 18, 2017 starting at 2:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. local Austrian time and will be brought to a worldwide audience by ESPN and local Austrian broadcast partner ORF. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit www.oeticket.com. Please visit www.austria2017.org for additional updates to Opening Ceremony performances.
Earlier this week, Special Olympics announced the first-ever social fundraising collaboration with GoFundMe. As part of the effort, nearly 500 GoFundMes are being created by teams, coaches, as well as by Olympians, top professional athletes, YouTube stars and other influencers to support athletes attending the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria next month. To donate and learn more about the athlete stories, and view all Special Olympic GoFundMes, visit: gofundme.com/specialolympics