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After 9 Days, Special Olympics World Games Come To A Close


Let's hear now about one of the world's most inspiring sporting events. Last night in Los Angeles, the Special Olympics World Games for 2015 came to an end with closing ceremonies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. This event drew 6,500 athletes from 165 countries. And for the first time, some of these events were televised live on ESPN. ESPN producer Kate Jackson covered all nine days of the games. She joins us from L.A.. Kate, good morning.

KATE JACKSON: Good morning. How are you?

GREENE: I'm well. Thank you. So where exactly are you? Are things finally wrapping up after more than a week of excitement?

JACKSON: I'm not sure that I would described them as wrapping up. The closing ceremony has definitely taken place, but we are in the Marriott in downtown L.A. and people still have a lot of energy about these games. And so we're celebrating. It's still a lot of fun to be had here.

GREENE: You know, these games go back to 1968, so they're not new. But everyone covering them seem to say there was sort of a special kind of energy this year. What was that about?

JACKSON: So this is my first experience with Special Olympics and specifically with the World Games, and someone described it to be best before I ever came here. They said you have known joy in your life, but there will be a new kind of joy and we like to call it Special Olympics joy. And it is absolutely 100 percent what I experienced here. It's very hard to explain, but there is something incredibly inspiring and incredibly invigorating about just being at these events and now that Special Olympics is being run on ESPN, it hit mainstream in a way that it had never been mainstream before. And I think that that really gave people an energy that maybe they didn't have before.

GREENE: I just want to hear about a few of the stories if I can. I know there's a really feel-good story about spectators when it came to the soccer team from Haiti. Tell us about that.

JACKSON: So they were traveling, and there was a snafu with their luggage. So they showed up and didn't have any uniforms. And there was this lovely young woman named Mia who was in the audience that day when they were first taking the field. And she noticed that they didn't have uniforms. And she gathered a bunch of her friends and went to a local athletic store and started talking about this team from Haiti whose luggage had gotten lost. And it started to gain momentum. Customers in the store started being like, oh, I can give you money. Here take $20, take $50. And then they went to another athletic store and the store owner was like, no problem, let us help you. And they put together entire kits for team so that the next time they took the field, they were in full uniform. She didn't know this team. She had never met anyone, but there is a camaraderie when you get here and a support that we are all in it together - that is incredible, like nothing I've ever experienced before.

GREENE: That's amazing. And Kate we say, you know, we think of the Special Olympics as different from the Olympics, but there's sometimes world records that are set in these games, right?

JACKSON: Absolutely. Jackie Barrett, who is a power lifter from Newfoundland, Canada, and who is fondly known to all of his fans and now pretty much all of the world as The Moose, he actually set a new world record in power lifting not for just athletes with intellectual disability, but any athlete who is a power lifter. And that's an amazing accomplishment, and it's so incredible to be able to see that on ESPN and to be able to share that with everyone.

GREENE: How did he get the nickname The Moose?

JACKSON: You know what? I'm not actually sure, but I'm telling you what, it was like sweeping the games. Everyone knows him as The Moose. He has an incredible fan club, and he does this thing after he lifts where he puts his hands above his head and does, like, this little like, wiggly thing with his fingers that looks like moose antlers.

GREENE: I love it. That's Kate Jackson. She's a producer with ESPN. She is still in Los Angeles after covering the 2015 Special Olympics. Kate, thanks a lot.

JACKSON: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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