Opening ceremonies are tonight for Iowa’s Special Olympics Summer Games

AMES — More than 2000 athletes will march through Iowa State University’s Hilton Coliseum in Ames for tonight’s opening ceremonies of the Iowa Special Olympics Summer Games.

Games director Seann Demaris says the event returned last year after being called off in 2020 due to COVID-19, while a scaled-back edition was held in 2021. Demaris says they’re now back to pre-pandemic levels.  “We’re excited to see that,” Demaris says. “There were several delegations still didn’t attend last year, but we worked through all that and had an event last year, a strong event, about 75-80% of our normal capacity. This year, we’re pretty much back to normal, in fact, a couple of the sports have higher numbers than 2019.”

He says tonight’s opening ceremonies are always a beautiful, unifying way to open the friendly competition. “It starts off with the parade of athletes. All of our delegations from all across Iowa come in and we march them on the floor of Hilton Coliseum,” he says, “and from there, we kick off the event. We have the torch lighting and an athlete will give a speech and we say our Athlete Oath.”

The summer games will be held through Saturday for children and adults with intellectual disabilities in sports including: swimming, soccer, tennis, track and field, bocce and cycling.

This July will mark 55 years for the Special Olympics, founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver.