COLUMBIA - As millions nationwide watched the Olympics' opening ceremony in Beijing on Friday evening, another torch was arriving in downtown Columbia.
The Special Olympics State Outdoor Championships held its opening ceremony next to the Boone County Courthouse. About 700 athletes will participate in the weekend's events, which include golf, softball, horseshoes and tennis, Special Olympics Missouri Spokeswoman Tammra Lammers said.
The Columbia Fire Department suspended a large flag from two ladder trucks to provide a backdrop for the ceremony, and a color guard from the department - led by three bagpipe players from the Boone County Fire Protection District - entered in front of it before those in attendance sang the national anthem.
Boone County Presiding Commissioner Ken Pearson welcomed the athletes, coaches and others at the ceremony to Columbia for the games, which will take place at Cosmo Park.
"Everybody wins from this," Pearson said.
Others at the ceremony expressed similar sentiments and encouraged the athletes to do their best.
"We're all fans of you," Mark Musso, president and CEO of Special Olympics Missouri, told the athletes gathered for the ceremony. "Go out and make us proud."