The 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games' chief executive officer, Gary Hunter, board members and Special Olympic athletes on Thursday unveiled the games' official mascot¾a proud standing, bald eagle wearing Olympic medals.
The mascot will serve as the global symbol of the games, to be held in Boise in February 2009. Hunter said it was a timely selection in light of Secretary of the Interior and former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne's recent announcement removing the bald eagle from the list of threatened and endangered species at a ceremony at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"The bald eagle is a living symbol of the USA's freedom, spirit and pursuit of excellence, not to mention the hope it will signify in relation to what the Special Olympics Games brings to participants and spectators, and the strength within each of the athletes," Hunter said in a press release. "It will serve to help unite and inspire athletes from all over the world."
The school children of Idaho will have a chance to name the mascot, and participate in a number of activities leading up to and during the 2008 Invitational and 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
This is the first time the games will be hosted in the United States since 2001. The 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games are projected to attract up to 10,000 visitors from 85 countries.
Special Olympics is an international program of year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Today, over 2 million athletes in more than 150 countries train and compete in 30 Olympic-type sports, ranging from skiing to sailing.