|Fireworks erupt over Hunter Stadium for the 2013 Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games|
The 2013 Special Olympic Asia Pacific Games are underway in Newcastle after a spectacular opening ceremony at Hunter Stadium last night.
More than 24,500 people packed the stadium last night, with the 2,500 athletes and coaches given a traditional welcome to country by local Aboriginal people.
Governor-General Quentin Bryce was in the stands as the athletes with intellectual disabilities from 30 countries across the Asia Pacific marched into Hunter stadium.
Marcia Hines, Human Nature and Iva Davies entertained the crowd along with local performers, Special Olympics dancers and a massive drumming performance by local school students.
The New South Wales Sports Minister Gabrielle Upton was also there and says the crowd roared to greet the Australian team as it came into the stadium.
"It was an amazing spectacular of music and dance and theatre and fireworks celebrating the opening of the Special Olympics at the Hunter Stadium," she said.
"I wanted to welcome all the international guests, fans, parents, supporters and carers who will make the next six days a wonderful wonderful experience for those who come to compete at the Special Olympics."
Athletes will compete in nine sports this week at venues across Newcastle, including swimming, badminton, basketball, cricket and football.
Games director Chris Heverin says there are a few ideal locations for the public to come along and cheer on the athletes.
"The cricket at No.1 Sportsground, football at No.2 and No.4 Sportsground, the athletics out at Glendale and also the basketball out at Broadmeadow Basketball Stadium," he said.
"They are the best venues to go to and we are encouraging everyone to come to those events.
"They are free and you will see some amazing competition and the athletes are full on and they're out there really having a go."
Mr Heverin says spectators can expect to see some competitive action.
"They're there representing their country and they've never been prouder and when they're out there on that field," he said.
"They're giving their best and they want to do their personal best time for themselves and their families and also for their country."
The week-long event is expected to inject around $20 million into the Newcastle region economy.
A street parade will be held on Newcastle's foreshore this Saturday night as part of the closing ceremony.