ATHLETES from the first Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games have been farewelled with a parade and spectacular fireworks display, marking the end of an unforgettable week of sport, celebration and new friendships.
Thousands of athletes, officials and volunteers marched along Wharf Road, Newcastle, as part of the closing celebration on Saturday evening, before Games chairman John Trevillian officially closed the event.
Mr Trevillian said the Hunter should be proud of its role in what he described as an outstanding success.
‘‘This week we have seen the best of people,’’ he said.
‘‘From our magnificent Special Olympics athletes and their carers, to our enthusiastic and committed volunteers, lives have been changed forever this week and we should all be proud of what we have achieved.
‘‘Newcastle has been the perfect host to athletes and officials from 29 nations from the Asia Pacific region who have achieved personal bests, made new friends and grown as people in what is a true reflection of the human spirit.
‘‘Every venue was full of joy.
‘‘Whether it was at the stirring and emotional opening ceremony or one of our sporting venues, everyone was touched with what makes this event truly unique.
‘‘Thank you all for making the dream a reality.
‘‘We are all better people for what we have seen and achieved.’’
Games director Chris Heverin paid tribute to the 3500 volunteers as well as staff, sponsors and contractors who he said had worked hard to deliver a world-class event.
‘‘Take a bow, Newcastle, for bringing so much joy to people and leaving a legacy that will stay with the city for many years to come.’’
Federal member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon said it was a pleasure to host the athletes.
It is estimated the event delivered a $10million boost to the region’s economy.
‘‘They’ve highlighted our strong community spirit, brought clear economic benefit and demonstrated our ability to host major international sporting events,’’ she said.
‘‘I thank the athletes and supporters for gracing our city and welcome their return.’’
More than 2500 athletes from 29 countries competed in nine sports at seven venues in Newcastle and Maitland over four days.
Games organisers said 2253 medals and 2205 ribbons were awarded.
Athletes also received free health checks and took part in cultural activities including meeting wildlife and visiting the region’s beaches.
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