On the date of the first games in 1968, July 20, more than 400 law enforcement officers and Special Olympics athletes participated in the traditional Law Enforcement Torch Run. Running through intermittent rain, they carried the torch along Lake Shore Drive, across the football field at Soldier Field to light the Eternal Flame of Hope. The flame sits in a beautifully landscaped plaza atop a 23-foot sculpture designed by world-renowned, Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt. Burning 24 hours every day of the year, it will serve as a symbol of the Special Olympics’ theme of inclusion and unity.
The flame’s journey started at special ceremony in Hyannis Port, MA, travelled to Boston and arrived in Chicago aboard a United Airlines flight. It was received by a local contingent of the Guardians of the Flame, members of the international organization that ensures the delivery of the flame to the opening ceremonies of local programs. The organization has raised millions for Special Olympics.
Special Olympian Loretta Claiborne carried the torch leading runners into the plaza to the cheers of hundreds. The lighting ceremony included remarks by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver and Special Olympics Co-founder, Justice Anne Burke.
The sculpture is located on McFetridge Drive on the grounds of Soldier Field, and across from the entrance to the Field Museum. It will be visible to millions of visitors. Surrounding the sculpture is a “Wall of Heroes” recognizing those who donated to the celebration. It will be easy to find the Eternal Flame as the road leading to the sculpture is now called Special Olympics Drive.
From left to right, Mike Kelly, Superintendent of the Park District; Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics International; Stacey Johnson, athlete liaison to the Torch Run Council; Justice Anne Burke; Chief Richard LaMunyon, who started the International Law Enforcement Torch Run in 2981 in Wichita, Kansas; and Richard Hunt, Sculptor.
The Eternal Flame is located in a beautifully landscaped plaza surrounded by the Wall of Heros
Runners take turns carrying the torch along Lake Michigan
Special Olympian Loretta Clairborne carried the torch
A United Airlines plane brings the torch to Chicago from Boston