California State University, Long Beach welcomed over 1,100 athletes to campus June 11-12th, as the school hosted the 47th annual Special Olympics Southern California Games.
The opening ceremony began Saturday, at 9:30 a.m. and featured the Parade of Athletes and the lighting of the cauldron, which signified the official start of the games.
Athletes competing in the games competed in aquatics, track & field, basketball, bocce, golf, and gymnastics, and a total of 11 counties participated in the games, ranging from San Luis Obispo to San Diego.
Erik Weber, a track & field competitor was full of excitement for the day ahead as he explained what he loved most about being apart of Special Olympics.
“It’s just always super fun to come out here and mix it up with my fellow athletes,” Weber said. “My mom helped put me in the Special Olympics to find positive role models in my life and while being on the team I won a lot of games and made some great friends, and you heard it here first, I’m getting first place today,” Weber said.
CSULB has partnered with Special Olympics and has hosted the Summer games every year from 1998-2013. In 2015 CSULB renewed a three-year extension to host the Summer games through 2017.
During the Summer games a variety of activities were also available for crowds to enjoy including live entertainment, games and law enforcement and community exhibits.
Brian Szczerbinski, Senior Director of Communications, estimated that by the end of the weekend the games would see about 12,000 spectators. Special Olympics Southern California also had the help of 400 coaches and 3,000 volunteers.
Julie Samples, a games organizing committee volunteer, said that she has been volunteering for Special Olympics Southern California for 20 years, and said that volunteering for the event is unlike any other.
“I like to say that I come here to get my heart filled, and it’s just the best place to be,” Samples said. “I don’t think I’ve ever met an unkind soul in 20 years, everybody inspires you and the greatest thing about volunteering is when you see the games and then you realize everyone can achieve things and be better than you ever thought you could be.”
Special Olympics Southern California is the first of two Southern California championships held each year. For more information about the Special Olympics Southern California visit http://www.sosc.org/
Written by Taylor Kelly