On Tuesday night (8 August) Liz Hobbs Group delivered the opening ceremony of the 2017 Special Olympics GB National Games in Sheffield at Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United FC.
In rain of biblical proportions, the stadium was lit with smiling faces, music and dance in front of dignitaries, friends and family, members of the general public and of course 3,500 athletes.
Liz Hobbs Group were proud and privileged to produce the four-hour ceremony, which proved to be the most memorable Opening Ceremony of the games to date.
Held every four years - and this year celebrating its tenth anniversary - is the country’s largest disability multi-sports event.
After a stringent selection process by the Special Olympics GB committee, Liz Hobbs Group were selected to create the concept, production, and artist delivery of the Opening Ceremony, having presented a concise and multi-faceted proposal to mark this particularly special anniversary year for the Games.
From the creative concepts for the entire ceremony format - sourcing and scheduling of hosts and performers from all over the UK, and overseeing the entire running order - through to delivering the stage, sound, light, full production and special effects, Liz Hobbs Group team rolled their sleeves up and threw their heart and souls into the event’s planning - working closely with the Special Olympics GB committee, all safety advisory groups, traffic management, Sheffield City Council and the hosts Sheffield United F.C.
The result was a truly special night. Despite atrocious weather conditions that could easily have hampered spirits and brought the event to a standstill, the LHG team were driven to making this an amazing occasion for the many athletes involved, keeping momentum going throughout the stadium; the schedule perfectly timed; each performer looked after and happy – albeit rather wet – and making sure that during the Athletes Parade, each delegation received plenty of time in the limelight as they made their way around the stadium eventually to their designated seats.
After the athletes’ arrival and parade amidst an atmosphere described by one of the hosts Jim Carter as ‘better than the reception Usain Bolt received on his recent and final race at the London Stadium’, the evening’s celebrations began, with performances by Tony Hadley – who performed several songs, including a powerful rendition of “Gold” which was received with rapturous applause, and by ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ star Kyle Tomlinson – who performed a beautifully moving and inspiring rendition of “This is the Moment” during the raising of the Special Olympics flag alongside the stage.
The evening’s hosts; actor Jim Carter, football commentator Chris Kamara and F1 and Radio 2 broadcaster Suzi Perry each did a stellar job keeping the line-up of performances flowing, and spirits high, with everyone in the stadium having a brilliant time, cheering, singing, and giving a fantastic show of support. Chris Kamara also brought smiles to the stands with his roving camera interviews, whilst Jim Cater injected plenty of humour from centre stage.
Throughout the Opening Ceremony there were many diverse performances from artists, DJs and dancers with special needs, physically disabled and non-disabled backgrounds - each local to the area – took to the front of stage in their beautiful costumes to bring a splash of colour amidst the grey skies. Each performer had been carefully selected to perform by Nathan Geering, Artistic Director for the Opening Ceremony who worked closely with the Arts Council to both procure funding and to select the performers from all over the UK, with the Liz Hobbs Group instrumental in Nathan’s appointment for this very special event.
Liz Doogan-Hobbs MBE, CEO of Liz Hobbs Group Ltd said “We were thrilled to have been selected to deliver this tremendously exciting and rewarding event, and as a team I cannot even being to say how proud we all are to be associated with the Special Olympics and the ethos behind the GB National Games 2017. Our vast expertise in delivering high level music and sport events certainly put us in a strong position. Praise goes to the hard work of not just the team at Liz Hobbs Group but all the local volunteers and Special Olympics staff who worked tirelessly to deliver such an amazing event. The hosts and performers were great and we were honoured to have had them join us and embrace the day. We had specific criteria to meet the high expectations of the committee and ultimately honour the athletes, and feedback indicates we achieved that.”
The Opening Ceremony came to a close with local favourite and former Superbike World Champion, James Toseland and his band Toseland performing their single, “We’ll Stop At Nothing”, the official 2017 Games Anthem, accompanied by a 90 strong Choir from Sheffield, which had the entire stadium up on its feet. The anthem has proven a popular hit in recent months and is still available to download via itunes, with proceeds going to the work of the Special Olympics: http://apple.co/2qWcKMI.
Special Olympics is part of a global movement that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition to nearly 5 million children and adults with intellectual (learning) disabilities in more than 170 countries There are an estimated 1.5 million people (2% population) with an intellectual (learning) disability in Great Britain. The year-round sport provided by Special Olympics is important to people with learning disabilities because adults and children with intellectual disabilities tend to have poorer health and the many emotional and physical problems associated with inactivity.
The GB National Games 2017 started on 7 August and will continue until 12 August and around 2,600 athletes with intellectual (learning) difficulties will descend on venues across Sheffield welcoming 20 sports – including Swimming, Judo, Table Tennis, Athletics, Badminton, Sailing, Golf, Gymnastics, Football and Tennis.
The public are encouraged to come along and cheer for the athletes. Entry to each game is free of charge. Full details of the schedules, athletes and venues are available from the Special Olympics website: www.sheffield2017.org.uk
Special Olympics, GB National Games Links: