LONG BEACH-One month from today, the 49th annual Special Olympics Southern California Summer Games will begin with Opening Ceremony on the campus of California State University, Long Beach on June 9. The Summer Games will run through Sunday, June 10 and will begin a year-long celebration of Special Olympics Southern California’s 50th anniversary.
More than 1,100 Special Olympics Southern California athletes will compete at the 2018 Summer Games on June 9-10 in Long Beach. More than 10,000 local dignitaries, corporate sponsors, volunteers, spectators and family members are expected to attend to cheer the athletes on and celebrate acceptance and inclusion for all. Admission to all events is free.
“Help us begin the celebration of our 50th anniversary by joining us at the 2018 Summer Games this June. Whether you are a parent, friend, volunteer, or you are new to Special Olympics, it will change the way you see sports,” said SOSC President and CEO Bill Shumard. “Sports impact not only our athletes’ lives, but everyone around them to be more inclusive and accepting of all our differences.”
This year’s Summer Games will kick-off the 50th anniversary celebration for SOSC. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics. The first Special Olympics International Summer Games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, on July 20, 1968. An estimated 1,000 athletes from 26 U.S. states and Canada competed in three sports: swimming, floor hockey, and track and field. Olympic decathlon gold medalist Rafer Johnson founded the Western/California Regional Chapter in 1969 with the first Summer Games on July 26, 1969 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The 2018 Summer Games begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday with the Opening Ceremony. The ceremony features the Parade of Athletes and the lighting of the cauldron, which signifies the official start of the Games and concludes the Law Enforcement Torch Run’s two-week relay escorting the Flame of Hope® across Southern California.
Summer Games is one of four Southern California championships held each year. More than 1,100 athletes from Southern California will compete in basketball, bocce, swimming and track and field. In addition, flag football will make its debut as a sport hosted by SOSC. Thanks to a partnership with the Los Angeles Rams, flag football will be introduced through demonstrations and skill showcases at this year’s Games. It will become a competitive sport in 2019.
Along with competitions, weekend activities will include games, live entertainment, community and law enforcement exhibits, and the Grand Prize Drawing for Special Olympics Southern California’s Dream House Raffle.
The annual Rafer Johnson Breakfast with Champions follows the Opening Ceremony at 11 a.m. and brings leaders of the business and sports communities together to honor the accomplishments of Special Olympics athletes. All-Pro NFL punter Johnny Hekker of the Rams will be the keynote speaker.
In addition, Special Olympics will showcase two of its signature programs, Healthy Athletes and Young Athletes. At the Healthy Athletes Village, free health screenings are provided to all Special Olympics Southern California athletes. Volunteer healthcare professionals and students provide dental, audiology, physical therapy, podiatry, nutrition, and optometry screenings. Young Athletes introduces children with and without intellectual disabilities, ages 2 – 7, to sports. The children will showcase skills in basketball, bocce, and athletics or by completing an obstacle course.
The Games are made possible with the help of 400 coaches, 3,000 volunteers, and generous contributions from individuals and corporate sponsors, including title sponsor The Albertsons Companies Foundation and The Vons Foundation.