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A Hot Time for Closing Ceremonies

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DURHAM — The Special Olympics World Summer Games will leave all participants and spectators with a raft of memories, and the searing summer heat is sure to be near the top of the list. Sunday evening's closing ceremonies -- to be held outdoors at Wallace Wade Stadium on the Duke campus -- will be a test of everyone's dedication.

Oppressive was the word for the heat as of 6 p.m. The heat index was 105 degrees. Temperatures are well above average, even for July 4.

Spectators for tonight's ceremonies may have the "coolest" seats in the house, bearing in mind that cool is a relative term. At that, the heat index was pegged at 105 degrees.

But the athletes and coaches are expected to have it worse. They will be down on the grass of the stadium itself, where temperatures could be five to seven degrees hotter. So for the three-hour good-bye, the teams may be enduring 110 to 112 degrees.

With temperatures like that, the sun can't set fast enough.

Medical help, of course, will be readily available should it be needed. Extra medical crews are on duty. Volunteers have placed fans near the teams, there are huge arc-shaped misting devices to cool off the athletes, and air conditioned tents are nearby. And everyone has been encouraged to drink plenty of water.

Director of tonight's ceremonies, Jody Lister, said the projection is for athletes and coaches to experience temperatures five to seven degrees higher than the air temperature.

One hot spot spectators need to be wary of: the metal bleachers they will sit on have been baking and radiating in the sun all day. It's the wise person who brings a cushion or towel to sit on.

The opening ceremonies eight days ago inspired the athletes to fine performances and set the tone for having fun, making new friends and doing one's best despite challenges.

It's not too much to say that everyone who has worked on and been touched by the Special Olympics wants the farewell to be so moving and inspiring that the heat is reduced to a footnote.

For a report on the very special closing ceremonies, watch WRAL-TV5's 11PM newscast.


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