10:56 AM CDT, June 28, 2011
There may be more than a two-foot difference in height between the Houston Rockets' Yao Ming and figure skater Michelle Kwan, but both have similar iconic stature in their country and sport.
And that is why they were together at a gala dinner Friday in Athens to celebrate the opening of the 2011 Special Olympics World Games, which run through Sunday.
The 7-foot, 6-inch Yao and the 5-foot, 2-inch Kwan both are Special Olympics global ambassadors. Each also competed in multiple Olympics -- three for Yao, two for Kwan, who recently was named to the Special Olympics board of directors.
Kwan, at her third Special Olympics as an ambassador, said by telephone Tuesday she has not noticed any effect on the event from the two-day general strike by Greeks protesting government austerity measures. The strike began Tuesday.
"There haven't been any delays,'' she said.
And now a few words about the picture.
Yao, who is Chinese, and Kwan, who is Chinese-American, had both attended the 2007 World Games in Shanghai but never met before sharing a dinner table in Athens.
"I know I'm short," Kwan said, laughing. "But Yao is taller even when he was sitting, and I was standing next to him.
"I sent the picture to my friends, and they all said was, 'Wow.' That's all you can say. Wow."
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC