- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Special Olympics “Flame of Hope” will make an appearance in the District today as part of its first global tour — a 22,000-mile, five-continent endeavor.

“We decided to take it to the next level,” said Special Olympics spokeswoman Sarah Cody of globalizing the 26-year-old Torch Run. In the past, the torch was lit in Athens and transported directly to the country hosting the Special Olympics.

The flame’s three-month global journey this year will culminate with its Oct. 2 arrival in Shanghai for the 2007 World Games Opening Ceremony.

The “Flame of Hope,” which is being transported in a miner’s lamp, was scheduled to arrive yesterday from Londonat the Washington headquarters of the Special Olympics, the international nonprofit organization that coordinates Olympic-style events for developmentally disabled athletes.

The District was the only U.S. city and one of 10 cities worldwide selected to host the Global Torch Run.

After a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden this morning, at which President Bush and first lady Laura Bush are scheduled to speak, law-enforcement officials and Special Olympics athletes are scheduled to run the torch from the South Lawn of the White House to the Mall.

The run, which coincides with the 17th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, is scheduled to begin at about 12:15 p.m. Runners are scheduled to make brief stops at the Capitol and the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Northwest before ending at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Northwest at about 2 p.m.

After today’s run, the flame will be transported for similar events in Seoul; Tokyo; Sydney, Australia; Beijing; Hong Kong; and Macao before the Opening Ceremony. The “Flame of Hope” was lighted using the sun’s rays at the Acropolis on June 29. From Athens, it was taken to Alexandria, Egypt; Cairo and London before making its way to the District.

For the law-enforcement officials who participate, the highlight of the run is being around the athletes, said Maj. Michael Teem, with the Raleigh, N.C., police department and chairman of the International Law Enforcement Torch Run Executive Council.

“They propel you to run farther than you can run on your own,” he said.

The Torch Run began as a grass-roots movement to raise funds and awareness for the Special Olympics and has deep law-enforcement roots.

Police Chief Richard LaMunyon from Wichita, Kan., started a local Torch Run in 1981 that has since blossomed internationally as the Special Olympics‘ largest fundraiser and awareness campaign, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police is considered the Torch Run’s founding organization, Miss Cody said.

The Global Torch Run is “a culmination of our [year-round] Torch Run activities,” Maj. Teem said.

Maj. Teem called the charity “a natural fit” for law-enforcement officials.

“Law enforcement is about serving our community,” he said. “We have rallied around and embraced [the Special Olympics] as our charity of choice. It’s our thing, our niche.”

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