A pro skateboarding demo was the main attraction when Encinitas welcomed Special Olympics delegations from Ghana, Swaziland and Thailand on July 23 at the Encinitas Community Park.
As one of 100 host towns in Southern California, Encinitas got the chance to showcase the city ahead of the Special Olympics World Games, which kicked off July 25 in Los Angeles and ends Aug. 2.
“Southern California, and Encinitas in particular, is such a skate mecca of the world, said X-games medalist Lyndsey “Lyn-Z” Hawkins-Pastrana, who lives in Cardiff. “It’s really cool to show some of these visiting athletes what we do here.”
With Special Olympics coaches and athletes cheering, Hawkins-Pastrana, pro skateboarder Zach Miller and others took turns carving up the concrete bowl in the Encinitas Skate Plaza, which is part of the 44-acre community park. Todd Richards, a former Olympic snowboarder who lives in Encinitas, emceed the skate demo.
Emmanuel Baidoo, head of the Ghana delegation, was all smiles as he watched. Baidoo said he’d never seen anything like it in person.
“It’s awesome and beautiful,” Baidoo said. “We’ve maybe seen this on TV, but not like this.”
San Diego, he added, is a “very peaceful and friendly place.”
“The people here are wonderful, because wherever we go, they embrace us,” Baidoo said.
Sixty-three delegates, made up of athletes and coaches from the three countries, were on hand at the event, dubbed “a day in the park.” Besides watching professional skateboarders, they got dance lessons from InnerDancers Performing Arts troupe, played ball with Coastal Dragons Rugby, ate a picnic lunch, petted therapy dogs from Rancho Coastal Humane Society, gazed at giant bubble-making demonstrations and were greeted by city and county officials.
“By having the event at the community park, they could experience baseball, skateboarding, soccer and a picnic — things that are a big part of our culture,” said Roberta Walker, a grants administrator and community representative with county Supervisor Dave Roberts’ office.
Roberts and his staff helped coordinate host town activities in Solana Beach, Del Mar and Encinitas.
Also lending a hand: the Encinitas Parks and Recreation Commission, Encinitas Youth Commission and volunteers from the Encinitas Rotary Club and Encinitas Lions Club.
And the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, San Dieguito Heritage Museum and Encinitas Florist provided in-kind support to help make the event a reality.
The Special Olympics World Games, billed as the largest sports and humanitarian event in the world this year, attracted an estimated 80,000 spectators when it opened July 25 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.