The blistering Augusta sun was no match for the Flame of Hope as it burned brightly through the streets of Port Augusta yesterday.
Accompanied by a procession of emergency service vehicles, the torch left the Port Augusta Police Station just after midday and travelled through Commercial Road, along The Wharf and into Gladstone Square.
Brimming with pride, half a dozen athletes – matched with volunteers from the Port Augusta Police Station – were met with cheer and applause upon their arrival.
A special ceremony was held after the run in Gladstone Square – SAPOL Operations Inspector Mark Hubbard, students from Port Augusta Special School, Mayor Sam Johnson and other members of the community attending.
Port Augusta High School performed the national anthem to open the ceremony.
“The whole idea of the Law Enforcement Torch Run is to create inclusion,” Chair of the Law Enforcement Torch Run South Australia Superintendent Scott Alison explained.
“The Special Olympics brings with it confidence, it means the athletes are able to participate in sport on an even playing field and they also get life skills which will set them up as they move into adulthood and ultimately through the rest of their lives as well.”
With approximately 700,000 people in Australia who have an intellectual disability, only around 5,000 compete in the Special Olympics.
The Torch Run is about creating awareness for the games – which are being held in Adelaide between Monday, April 16 and Friday, April 20 – in order to create more opportunities for people with an intellectual disability.
28-year-old Laura Hester has been competing in the Special Olympics for a number of years in netball, basketball and as a cheerleader.
“I’ve been to China, Queensland… too many!” she laughed, remembering all of the games she has participated in.
“It’s important to do something like my sister and brother do, because my sister and brother don’t have a disability. So, it’s good that I can actually do what they do.”
Port Augusta is the second leg of 12 over the eight day Torch Run.
The participants will travel a total of 1400 kilometres across regional and metropolitan areas of South Australia to reach the opening ceremony at Titanium Stadium in Adelaide.
Unfortunately this year Port Augusta doesn’t have any athletes competing in the games, however it’s hoped that events like the Torch Run will spark an interest within the community.
“Just like anything to do with mental disabilities and so forth, people don’t actually know about these particular movements,” Superintendent Allison said.
“That’s the beauty of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, it effectively gives these wonderful athletes, these wonderful members of our community, a bit of a voice and a presence.
“If we can create more Special Olympics programs around the nation, then we are doing wonderful things.”