"I think we’re home," said Shriver, adding that "Greece did not fail us and the athletes of Special Olympics will not fail Greece!"
Then, the parade began as more than 7,500 athletes from nearly 180 nations made their way into the stadium to roaring applause from the enthusiastic crowd.
As Special Olympics athletes settled into the stadium, everyone welcomed soul music legend Stevie Wonder, who performed the songs You can feel it and You are the Sunshine of my Life.
Wonder also performed a duet of the song That's What Friends are For with artist Vanessa Williams, who co-hosted the show with tenor Mario Frangouli.
The ceremony also featured a rendition of Homer's Odyssey, and performances by Greek singer Alkistis Protopsalti with Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo, and special presentations by actress Zhang Ziyi and Maria Menounos. When the Special Olympics Flag was walked into the stadium carried by Pyros Dimas, President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias declared the official opening of the Games.
The athletes’ oath was taken and the Flame of Hope was run through the stadium; then, the torch was lit to mark the launch of the Games.
During the next 9 days, Special Olympics athletes will compete in the biggest international sporting event of the year, featuring 22 Olympic sports.