Christopher Reeve called it "magic." He wasn’t referring to his new movie "Superman"; rather he was talking about the colorful ceremonies that overflowed from the 8,500-seat stadium at SUNY Brockport.
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Former gold medal Olympian Rafer Johnson acted as head coach of the Olympics and led the athletes in the stating of their motto: "Let me win; but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
As the athletes finished voicing their statement, members of the "Wings of Blue," the Air Force Academy’s parachute team, leaped from a plane and the final jumper handed the Olympic torch to a waiting athlete. The torch was last used in the 1972 Munich Olympic games and the first of five Rochester-area Special Olympians was eager to carry it on.
Former heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali and Rafer Johnson then helped Steven Parlato, a 19 year old Brockport athlete, in the lighting of the Olympic flame which will burn continuously until Saturday night. Steve Parlato, who cherished that moment died May 23, 2002 at age 42. His family requested this photo to immortalize that day.
Photo courtesy of the Democrat & Chronicle
Massachusetts senator Edward M. Kennedy then proclaimed: "I declare that the 1979 International Summer Olympics have officially begun!" Five hundred balloons were then released to culminate the joyous festivities. Earlier in the day, the statues created by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli and a U.S. stamp commemorating the Special Olympics were honored.
(Reported by the Hornell Tribune on August 10, 1979).
Olympic gold medalist Rafer Johnson (center) speaks at the opening ceremony.