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After 30 Years, Special Olympics Celebrates the Past & Future

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GREENSBORO — The Special Olympics is proof that a lot can happen in 30 years. The organization is celebrating its 30th anniversary. As WRAL's Tracy Wilson explains, athletes and organizers are celebrating the past, and planning the future.

Golfer Mike Stone has been involved with Special Olympics for 30 years. He and several other North Carolina athletes went to the first international competition in 1968 at Chicago's Soldier Field.

Back then, most people thought athletes with mental retardation couldn't swim an entire lap in a pool... let alone contribute to society. But athletes who competed at these first games, and others who have come along since, have proved them wrong.

Now, 30 years after that first international competition which included only the U.S. and Canada, North Carolina is getting ready to host the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games and athletes from 150 countries.

Many of those countries were represented at a recent Special Olympics World Games conference in the Triangle.

Special Olympics President and CEO, Timothy Shriver, the son of Special Olympics founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, says he's proud of the past, but he's focused on the future.

"In the next 30 years, the Special Olympics movement will stand on the issue of respect for the athlete, allowing the athlete to lead."

Already, Special Olympics is getting started by creating a new image of its athletes with public service announcements, including PSA's for the upcoming World Games.

Shriver says the bottom line is athletes with mental retardation have goals and gifts. It's a message you'll hear a lot more of as the 1999 World Games usher in the next 30 years of Special Olympics.

Special Olympics is marking its 30th anniversary back where it began in Chicago. Muhammad Ali was on hand today to honor 12 athletes from around the world.

The ceremony kicks off a year long celebration that will culminate with the World Games next year here in the Triangle.

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Tracey Wilson, Reporter
Keith Baker, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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