Special Olympics will focus attention on athletes, gifts

In just a few weeks, athletes from around the globe will gather in Sochi, Russia, for the Winter Olympics, drawing the rapt attention of billions of television viewers around the world.

Another Olympics, however, takes place starting today and we hope it draws a lot of attention as well: The 27th Annual Upper Peninsula Winter Games for Special Olympians.

The games, which take place here in Marquette, draw Special Olympics participants from around the Upper Peninsula, who gather to compete in outdoor sports like snowshoeing and downhill skiing and indoor competition like basketball.

Marquette Mountain will host Alpine events at 2:30 p.m. today, with the athletes then participating in a torchlight run at the ski hill.

The action then heads to The Holiday Inn for a dance tonight from 7 to 9 p.m.

Saturday, the Superior Dome will be the center for action, with the opening ceremonies to begin at 9 a.m., including the lighting of the Olympic flame.

The opening ceremonies will then be followed by a day of competition featuring athletes from the five Special Olympics regions in the U.P.

Founded by Eunice Kennedy Shiver, Special Olympics has been giving people with intellectual disabilities the chance to shine for more than 45 years.

The Special Olympics of Michigan web page describes its purpose thusly: “The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Athletes are given continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness and athletic skill, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.”

What a wonderful program indeed. We encourage you to get out to cheer on these great competitors and to support Special Olympics in any way possible.

For more information, visit specialolympics.org or somi.org.