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Special Olympics Opening Ceremony is Exciting for the Triangle

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RALEIGH — More than 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from around the world will participate in the incredible opening ceremony Saturday.

It is an exciting week for the athletes and their families. Though Carter-Finely Stadium was hot all day, the families of the athletes were in the stands supporting them.

"I do not notice the heat," says Betty Owen, grandparent to an athlete. "I am so excited."

Owen arrived early to reserve good seats so she could watch her granddaughter walk across the field.

"It is different entirely," she explains. "I had five children who did athletics in school, and it was nothing compared to this."

Darlene Hanson and Don Lee traveled from Washington state to see their brother at his best moment.

"We want him to be recognized after all he has worked for and all the years he has done Special Olympics. To get to come here and do this is a pretty incredible moment for him," says Hanson. "We try to support him, so it is pretty incredible for us."

The Luft family came from Kentucky wearing team shirts with a picture of their favorite athlete, 20-year-old Kristi Luft.

"We are just overwhelmed; we are just very thankful," Kristi's mother, Mary Luft explains. "When Kristi was 13, [doctors] said she would never talk again, so she has come really far."

Crowds of 50,000 people were expected from across the state, families from across the country and, athletes from across the world. Stars, such as Grant Hill, Sharon Stone and Kathy Ireland, will march with the athletes. The show starts at 7 p.m. and will last about 4 hours.

Starting Monday, WRAL will broadcast nightly specials from 7:30 to 8 p.m. through Friday night. If you miss that, you can also catch a five-minute recap of the day's happenings every night after the 11:00 News.

Traffic will obviously be affected by the World Games. For updates throughout the day, you can checkTriangle Traffic. Some roads have been closed until the Games end, including Dan Allen Drive, Cates Avenue and Morrill Street, all in Raleigh.

The World Games end July 4.