Special Olympics Takes On the World

The 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games open on 25 July 2015 in Los Angeles, California. The 2015 Games will feature competitions in aquatics, gymnastics, track and field, basketball, football (soccer)and many other summer sports involving 6,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities from around the world.

It all began in the 1950s and early 1960s,when Eunice Kennedy Shriver saw how unjustly and unfairly people with intellectual disabilities were treated. She also saw that many children with intellectual disabilities didn’t even have a place to play. She decided to take action.

Soon, her vision began to take shape, as she held a summer day camp for young people with intellectual disabilities in her own backyard. The goal was to learn what these children could do in sports and other activities – and not dwell on what they could not do.

Throughout the 1960s, Eunice Kennedy Shriver continued her pioneering work — both as the driving force behind President John F. Kennedy’s White House panel on people with intellectual disabilities and as the director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. Her vision and drive for justice eventually grew into the Special Olympics movement.

Los Angeles is set to welcome 6,500 Special Olympics athletes from 165 nations to compete in 25 Olympic-type sports. It’s a world stage for our athletes to demonstrate on the playing field their courage, determination and spirit of sportsmanship.

The most recent World Summer Games were in Athens, Greece in 2011. The 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games could bring as many as a half-million people to the greater Los Angeles area from 25 July to 2 August 2015.

“These Games will change the lives of people around the world who are mistreated and excluded because they’re ‘different,'” said Patrick McClenahan, President and Chief Executive Officer of LA2015, the Games.

The Games also are a chance for spectators and volunteers to have their preconceptions about people with intellectual disabilities changed forever. Getting involved with the Games by cheering from the stands or handing out cups of water to thirsty athletes is a sure way to change your view of people of all kinds.

Special Olympics World Games — and all of the 90,000 Special Olympics competitions that occur every year–invite the public to see the talents and capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities.It’s a way to open eyes, to change attitudes and to break down barriers that excluded people with ID from the mainstream of community.

If you want to see a world that takes equality seriously, then come to Los Angeles this week, for the Special Olympics World Games, which run through Saturday, at stadiums, ball fields, tracks and pools around the city. Take a seat in the stands and root for your country, or your common humanity.

At the opening ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, 62,000 people roared for the athletes, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, marching in native costumes. President Obama greeted them by video, and Michelle Obama, in person, declared the Games open. Dancers waved ribbons, fireworks erupted and the Olympic torch blazed.

The Special Olympics World Games embrace unity, achievement and dignity. The Special Olympics goal is to continue that same feeling long after the competitions are over. We see a world where there is no ‘us’ or ‘them.’ Instead, peoples of all abilities are treated with dignity and respect and all are welcomed with acceptance and understanding.

In this world, there are millions of different abilities but no disabilities. There’s also lots of fun!

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