Closing ceremonies for the 2012 Special Olympics Montana State Summer Games in Billings was anything but somber.
Dance music throbbed through out the Laurel High School Gymnasium early Friday morning, welcoming more than 1,000 athletes from across Montana to celebrate a successful three-day run of competition in 13 events, medal awards and fun.
The pumped-up athletes clapped and cheered to the booming beat as two inflatable windsock figures moved to their own drummer.
The Olympic torch took center stage as Billings Mayor Tom Hanel and Special Olympic officials praised the athletes and thanked the coaches, sponsors and volunteers who made it all happen.
“This is your day! This is all for you! So congratulations!” Hanel told the athletes.
Billings and the region was “extremely proud” to host the games, which will return for two more years to Billings, Hanel said.
“So come on back, OK?” he said.
The crowd roared.
Bob Norbie, president of Special Olympics Montana, demonstrated some of his own athletic “skills” as a sumo wrestler soccer goalie.
Donning a sumo suit and black helmet and guarding a large soccer net, Norbie more or less deflected soccer balls kicked by athletes who had sold numerous raffle tickets. Assistants put him back on his feet when he toppled over diving for a ball.
As a dignitary at the lectern, Norbie praised the games as “pretty cool” for the joy they spread. More important than the love of the games, he said, was “the love in the games.”
“Oh yeah!” the crowd responded.
Norbie called out for the volunteers, the fans and the coaches.
“Oh yeah!” the athletes responded.
The games, Norbie said, demonstrated the Golden Rule through the “universal language of sports.”