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Fans, Royalty and Corporate Sponsors Show Support for World Games

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RALEIGH — Athletes competing in theSpecial Olympics World Summer Gamesmay be competing before record crowds. Organizers say the number of spectators has exceeded their expectations.

Even events that typically draw smaller crowds, like handball, are being played in packed houses. Organizers reluctantly had to turn some people away from the popular power lifting competition Wednesday afternoon.

One reason for the huge draw: host families are showing up to see their out-of-town guests compete.

"You can't believe how much love those athletes have and how good they really are. It's amazing," says spectator Mary Evans.

Many Special Olympics athletes come from countries where they were once treated as outcasts. The leaders of their countries have helped them find a place.

Gladys Masire, the former First Lady of Botswana, is called the Patron Saint of Special Olympics in her homeland.

"Children with mental retardation can be exceptional athletes through sports," says Masire. "They can realize their potential for growth. What we have to do is give them a chance."

The President of Iceland has also been watching athletes compete at a number of venues. He, too, has been a big supporter of Special Olympics, which is now recognized in more than 150 countries.

It takes a tremendous amount of support to make the Special Olympics happen. It also takes a lot of money.

That's where corporate sponsors come in, contributing millions in cash, products and services. In return, they hope to increase name recognition and possibly, future consumer loyalty.

At the World Games Festival, local, national and international companies get to showcase their services to an appreciative public.

The Festival is free and open to the public. It is located at Meredith College in Raleigh and is open from 2 - 8 p.m. through Saturday, July 3.

Stay tuned to WRAL, the official TV station of the World Summer Games, for complete coverage. We'll recap the day's events each weeknight from 7:30 to 8 p.m. You can also catch a five-minute recap each night after WRAL's 11:00 News. Of course, you can also watch it all onWRAL OnLine.


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