WICHITA — Hundreds of Special Olympics Kansas athletes will converge Friday on Wichita to kick off the 50th annual State Summer Games.

The first games in Kansas took place May 30, 1970, in Parsons, with 300 athletes. The 2019 games will host 1,292 athletes from teams located throughout the state.

“Athletes have been training and competing locally for the past eight weeks in swimming, cycling, tennis and track and field events to prepare for the state games,” said Heather Waters, Special Olympics Kansas spokesperson. “Of all seven of our state level competitions throughout the year, these games are, by far, the largest.”

The summer games, which are held annually, will start on Friday and wrap up Sunday.

The event will include competition; Healthy Athlete screenings for vision, hearing and dental; an athlete village with games and activities; a Unified Sports Experience; and Athlete Performance Stations to ensure athletes are ready to compete.

Opening Ceremony is at 7 p.m. at Maize South High School, 3701 N. Tyler Road. Special Olympics Kansas volunteer Rob Emery will emcee the opening ceremony for the 25th year.

During the Opening Ceremony several award recipients will be recognized and five athletes will be inducted into the Special Olympics Kansas Athlete Hall of Fame.

Members of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Kansas will also be on hand at the event to bring in the Special Olympics Kansas Torch and declare the games open.

They will also play Minute to Win it style games with athletes during Opening Ceremony and be on hand throughout the weekend to cheer on athletes and hand out medals.

Swimming, tennis and cycling competition is Friday. Track and field competition is Saturday and Sunday.

Special Olympics Kansas will premiere “Celebrating Inclusion Since 1970”: A Special Olympics Kansas Oral History on Saturday. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, current and former athletes, family members, staff, and volunteers recorded their memories and experiences with Special Olympics Kansas from the last five decades.

The video was made possible through a grant from Humanities Kansas and with the assistance of the Johnson County Community College Kansas Studies Institute and Johnson County Community College Video Services Department.

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