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Special Olympics Oklahoma 50th anniversary games begin Wednesday in Stillwater

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Erica Motal flies through the air as she competes in the running long jump during last year's Special Olympics Oklahoma Summer Games at Stillwater High School. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]
Erica Motal flies through the air as she competes in the running long jump during last year's Special Olympics Oklahoma Summer Games at Stillwater High School. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

STILLWATER — The 50th anniversary of Special Olympics in Oklahoma will be celebrated Wednesday through Friday as organizers welcome about 5,500 athletes and thousands of volunteers to the annual event, organizers said.

The games will begin Wednesday morning with power-lifting, golf, softball, bowling, bocce and the end of the law enforcement torch run about 4 p.m. in front of Boone Pickens Stadium. Opening ceremonies will be at 7:30 p.m at Gallagher Iba Arena.

Special Olympics Oklahoma staged it first games at the University of Tulsa in 1969 with only track and field events. Special Olympics, created by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, opened the first year of games in 1968 in Chicago.

The headquarters office in Stillwater on Tuesday was busy with preparations, said Paige Martin, Special Olympics Oklahoma spokeswoman. This year is the 36th one for the games in Stillwater.

"We are very excited. When we had our first event in Tulsa, we only had 200 athletes. It is pretty remarkable," Martin said.

The games include a noncompetitive category for children ages 3 to 8. About 230 schools statewide are bringing teams.

"We're going to have some great competition and what is really cool about having it in Stillwater is that the city really opens up for us, as well as OSU and Stillwater High School. They give us the key to the stadiums, and knowing that they trust us, we just can't thank them enough," Martin said.

She said up to 3,000 volunteers will help out.

"The volunteers are our backbone. Without them none of this is possible. There is a lot going on," Martin said.

For more information about this year's events go to the www.sook.org or the Facebook page "Special Olympics Oklahoma."

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