Novocastrians sparkle at Special Olympics opening ceremony then hosts a week of sport and the finale

IT was a spectacular scene that left Newcastle shining.

Stunning local performances, fireworks and special effects lit Hunter Stadium on Sunday night as more than 20,000 people united to support the Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games opening ceremony.

The ceremony kicked off the inaugural week-long event, which will be held in Newcastle until Sunday.

About 2500 athletes from 29 countries paraded onto the field and rejoiced in the city-wide celebration, which was televised around the world.

The night's performances included local dancers, singers, drummers and tappers from Rosie's School of Rock, The Marching Koalas, The Waltzing Matildas, Chakras Performing Arts and an appearance from Hunter Surf Life Saving.

The musical line-up included Marcia Hines, country trio The McClymonts, Doug Parkinson, Anthony Callea and Human Nature.

Australia's Governor-General Quentin Bryce graced the stage with a speech before the athletes, coaches and officials pledged their oaths.

The Games' competitions were kicked-off by Cardiff South athlete and Games ambassador Geoff Kirby, when he lit the cauldron with the torch that arrived in Newcastle on Sunday.

SPECIAL Olympics athletes are now midway through the inaugural 2013 Asia Pacific Games, but there is still a chance to see them compete.

The Games will run until Saturday afternoon, then closing celebrations will kick off at the Foreshore, signifying the end of the Games.

Sporting events run from 10am to 5.30pm each day and are free to attend.

They are held at:

■Athletics – Hunter Sports Centre, Glendale.

■Aquatics and badminton – The Forum.

■Basketball and table tennis – Broadmeadow Basketball Stadium.

■Bocce – Charlestown Bowling Club.

■Cricket – No.1 Sportsground.

■Football – No.2 Sportsground.

■Tenpin bowling – Super Strike Maitland.

Awards will be presented to the athletes on Thursday and Friday after competition has finished for the day.

Gold, silver and bronze medals will be presented to athletes who place first, second or third, while place ribbons will be up for grabs in fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth.

All athletes who are not in the top eight will receive a participatory  ribbon.

■Go to soapg2013.com for  results.

NEWCASTLE will celebrate hosting the Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games with a bang this weekend at Foreshore Park.

Festivities will start at 7.15pm this Saturday, December 7, with the athletes’ parade marked by cannon fire from Fort Scratchley.

There will be free entertainment in the park from 7.30pm onwards.

Performances will include a set by award-winning country singer and games volunteer Amber Lawrence, an Indian cultural dance from Newcastle’s Chakras Performing Arts, the police band and the extinguishing of the Games torch.

Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy will then talk about the Games’ significance to the city.

A DJ will kick off a dance party  about 8.30pm.

Fireworks will follow at 9.30pm.

The Games’ project director Chris Heverin said although it will be a smaller scale celebration than the opening ceremony, it was important to congratulate and recognise the athletes’ efforts.

‘‘It will be a great celebration to cap it all off and it will no doubt be a fantastic time for everyone involved,’’ Mr Heverin said.

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