Long Beach hosts 40th annual Special Olympics Summer Games

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special-olympics-long-beachThe public is invited to cheer on 1,100 Special Olympics Southern California athletes as they compete in the largest competition of the year, the Summer Games at California State University, Long Beach. More than 5,000 athletes, coaches, volunteers and spectators are expected to attend the two-day event; admission is free.

This is also Special Olympics Southern California’s 40th anniversary year, and in addition to seven sports competitions, celebrations are scheduled throughout the two-day event.

“Our annual Summer Games is a great opportunity for the public to see our athletes in action and see what is right and good about sports,” said Bill Shumard, President & CEO, Special Olympics Southern California. “We are proud to be celebrating our 40th year of changing lives for people with intellectual disabilities. I believe we’ve had tremendous staying power due to our local communities, sponsors and volunteers who have believed in and supported our athletes and our cause for many years.”

Vons, the Summer Games Title Sponsor, is creating an enormous birthday cake to commemorate the 40th anniversary. It will feed 2,000 people, is approximately 12 feet by 6 feet, and will weigh nearly 500 lbs. Free cake will be given to Summer Games attendees on June 13 at 11 a.m.

Also to commemorate the 40th anniversary is The Rafer Johnson Breakfast With Champions, where Olympic decathlete gold medalist and Special Olympics Southern California founder, Rafer Johnson, will be celebrated for his achievements and contributions to Special Olympics. Olympic and professional sports athletes speaking at the June 13 breakfast, include James Worthy, Ann Meyers-Drysdale, Janet Evans-Willson and Anita DeFrantz. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online at www.breakfastwithchampions.org.

In addition, to signify the opening of the games, an LA County Sheriff’s Dept. helicopter will bring the Flame of Hope to the track and field stadium on June 13 at 10 a.m., where a deputy will rappel from the helicopter to the ground with torch in hand. Once the torch reaches the ground, it will be re-lit to light the cauldron. CBS2/KCAL9 sportscaster Gary Miller will emcee the Opening Ceremony.

Competitions start at noon on June 13 and end on Sunday at 3 p.m. Sports competitions include Aquatics, Athletics (Track/Field), Basketball, Bocce, Golf, Gymnastics and Tennis. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be presented after competitions at each sports venue.

The Summer Games also provides an opportunity for athletes to receive health screenings to examine the athletes’ general health and improve their ability to train and compete in Special Olympics. Volunteer health professionals in audiology, physical therapy, podiatry, and vision offer free screenings to Special Olympics athletes at the Healthy Athlete Village.

The 2009 Summer Games are made possible by generous contributions from individuals and corporate sponsors, including The Vons Foundation as the Title Sponsor and Co-Sponsors CBS2/KCAL9, Disney, Mattel, The Mitchell E. Gordon Memorial Fund, Toyota, and UPS.

Special Olympics athletes and staff are available for media prior to and during the Summer Games weekend. Competing athletes and their coaches represent the following cities and counties throughout Southern California: Antelope Valley, Imperial Valley, Kern County, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Mojave River, Morongo Basin, Orange County, Pasadena, Pomona, Riverside, Palm Springs, San Bernardino County, San Diego County, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara County, Santa Clarita, South Bay, Temecula, and Ventura.

A complete schedule of events is available at www.sosc.org.

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